You can’t keep a good gimmick down, which is why, ten years on from the release of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, found-footage horror flicks are still trickling in. Thankfully, theaters are no longer inundated with them, but quieter and lower key productions are continuing to use the tactic – hence we now have the awkwardly named HAUNTED HOSPITAL: HEILSTÄTTEN (which, come on, I will DEFINITELY be calling TRIPLE H for the remainder of this review).
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a group of kids take an array of filming equipment into an abandoned hospital believed haunted for sensationalistic reasons but then – plot twist – turns out the place really does have ghosts! (Or demons, or witches, or the pit of hell, or, you know, something that HMOs will write off as a preexisting condition.) Along with this, the Germany-lensed TRIPLE H opts for a modern update by presenting all the trespassers as hosts of their own very disparate Youtube channels, some more successful than others, which has led to some tension between them all. (I think they used to be friends in real life before or during their Youtube fame, but that’s never made clear). There’s Betty (Nilam Farooq), whose channel seems to consist of her sitting on a bed and talking about makeup but never applying any (accurate); Emma (Lisa-Marie Koroll), who helps participants face their very specific fears; and lastly, there’s Charly and Finn (Emilio Sakraya and the amazingly named Timmi Trinks), who host something called Prankstaz, which is exactly what it sounds like, and which is the most obnoxious thing you have ever seen. (Also accurate). Joining them are Theo (Tim Oliver Schultz), the level-headed worrywart, and Marnie (Sonja Gerhardt), a psychic and Theo’s former squeeze. (I’m going to be honest, I’m not 100% of that breakdown because all the girls, bundled up in hats, scarves, and big jackets, kinda look the same, and most of their names are barely spoken aloud during the entire running time. Girls just sort of keep showing up, making you go, “oh, guess I missed her the first time.” Just know that this movie is basically Hellstätten 90210.) The kids all figure that cross promoting with the sadly successful Prankstaz will boost the number of theiir Youtube followers, and that’s all that matters on the entire planet.
For the first two acts, TRIPLE H unfolds exactly as you would expect: the characters are introduced and established as: the main one who will probably live, the “silly” ones who definitely won’t, and the window dressing ones whom no one will especially care about. Dark hallways are wandered, fleeting creepy things in the dark are glimpsed, fights break out among the cast, and bodies begin to drop. During this time, TRIPLE H is very okay – it’s absolutely every other found footage flick you have ever seen, but it’s well made enough that it doesn’t feel like you’re watching anything offensive. In addition, there’s a scene where Theo berates the two Prankstaz hosts for peddling idiocy on their channel and contributing to “the stupidity of our youth,” so you might be thinking, “Oh, wow, TRIPLE H has a message.” Once the third-act twist happens, whatever credit you were willing to lend toward TRIPLE H goes totally out the window and you will groan, groan, groan. To its credit, you’ve never seen anything like it in a found footage flick, but that’s because the twist is nearly as ridiculous as, say, if it’s revealed that the haunted hospital had been under the hellish influence of an evil cantaloupe named Jeremy.
It feels counter-intuitive to discuss the video and audio merits of this title considering the look was designed to be a pastiche of different amateur video sources, from cell phones to mini cameras, some of which is occasionally thermal imaging or night vision, but what’s presented is a bit glossier than one might expect. But don’t worry, it’s still pretty glitchy, purposely generating loud PSST noises throughout to terrify the audience because that’s terrifying. As for audio, unless you speak German, you’ll mostly be depending on the subtitles, so the coherence of the dialogue is pretty moot. This release also comes with an English audio track for those of you who despise reading and who love it when dialogue doesn’t come close to matching what a mouth is doing.
Beyond a trailer, there are no special features included on this release.
HAUNTED HOSPITAL: HEILSTÄTTEN is every found-footage flick you’ve ever seen – that is, until it’s not, and that’s when it’s worse. If you’re among the breed of fan who devours these kinds of flicks regardless of budgets or reputations, you’re likely to find a few worthy yuk-yuks within. For everyone else, avoid.
HAUNTED HOSPITAL: HEILSTÄTTEN hit Blu-ray on February 12 from WellGo USA.