The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill Movie Review
Written by John Colianni
DVD released by Image Entertainment
Directed by Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates
Written by Kevin Gates
2013, Region 1 (NTSC), 88 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on September 30th, 2014
Before I get started with this review, I just want to put on record that I don't believe in ghosts or spirits. I've never had a run in with a specter. I've never seen or heard anything that couldn't be explained. And that may be the reason I enjoy horror films that involve possession, ghost hunts and the paranormal. While this may seem hypocritical to some, please hear me out. When I am presented to a movie with some fine head spinning, vomit slinging, cover moving, door slamming fun, I lose myself in something that I don't think I'll ever have the opportunity of experiencing. So when a movie like The Exorcist or The Conjuring comes around, I immerse myself in the plot and what each character goes through throughout the narrative. Then if the day comes and I'm caught in a situation with some pissed off demon, I won't end up like half of the dumb asses in my favorite films.
The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill, directed by Matthew Bartlet and Kevin Gates, tells the story of a ruined church in the countryside of Bedfordshire. Since 1963, it has been host to black masses, animal sacrifices and human remains that have been found arranged in ritualistic fashions. Now, fifty years have passed and a group of paranormal investigators have come together to find out what really happened at Clophill and to document their discoveries.
Right off the bat, The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill sets the tone perfectly, with testimonies of those who have experienced the haunting and a history of the building itself. That, unfortunately, is the main crux of this entire production. Too much time is spent between testimonials and investigators, telling the audience what they should be afraid of and fearing instead of producing anything that is remotely believable. The evidence that is provided is shoddy at best and the scenes that are supposed to deliver the scares fall flat. With documentary-style horror films, seeing is believing. There are the rare exceptions that can show very little (The Blair Witch Project) and still carry an audience, but even then, if what is happening isn't believable when all involved are claiming it to be, the film can be a tough sell for those watching and waiting for scares that never happen.
The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill should have been scarier from the story alone, plain and simple. Almost none of the footage of paranormal activity takes place inside the dilapidated church and by the time that the filmmaker are running around and screaming, it's already too little and too late. In retrospect, all of the testimony of the eerie sightings and supposed black masses that had occurred there were the ultimate downfall of the film. Not providing scares or decent evidence to a willing and eager audience is like dangling a bag of Doritos in front of a fat kid and never delivering on the promise they can have some. When a jump-fest such as Paranormal Activity has more of a backbone than a film about sacrificial ceremonies and black masses, it may be time to reevaluate what it is exactly you're promising your audience instead of telling me what I should be afraid of.