Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Sarah Landon Franchise: DoA?

Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour (2007)
Starring: Rissa Williams, Brian Comrie, Dan Comrie, and Jane Harris
Director: Lisa Comrie
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

Teenaged Sarah Landon (Williams), shortly after losing her best friend to a drunk driver, spends the weekend in a town she hasn't visited in ten years. While coping with her memories, she reconnects with a boy she used to play with as a child (Brian Comrie), and learns that his older brother (Dan Comrie) believes a vengeful ghost will kill him on his 21st birthday... which is coming up Monday. Sarah sets out to find the truth of what is going on in the small California town.

"Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour" is a film that's part mystery and part supernatural thriller and intended primarily at young girls who would enjoy material like "Nancy Drew" books, the "Clubbing" graphic novel by Andi Watson and Josh Howard, or whatever series featuring girls playing detective and coming up against supernatural forces (or the appearance of supernatural forces is popular these days).

Given that I am not the target audience, the film is a little hard for me to judge. For my tastes, the film was a little slow in getting started, because of the artificiality of the stories Sarah was being told when she first arrived in town. It wasn't that a dark chapter of the town's past was being revealed to her that didn't ring true, but rather the way the people were relating it to her. It sounded like they were telling her a ghost story instead of relating something they considered to be tragic facts. Now, young girls may not mind this, but to me it gave the opening parts of the movie a stilted, artificial quality that even old and stilted mystery movies don't have.

Some things I am capable of judging are the qualities of the movie that apply to all films, no matter who the target audience might be.

In some of those areas, "Sarah Landon" is what I would expect. The story, once it gets past the tediously executed setup phase moves along at a nice pace, the camerawork is decent, the film feels well-researched (the paranoid, deathmarked brother sounds and behaves like he's been spending entirely too much listening to "Coast to Coast AM"), and there are even a couple of well-done "boo!"-type scares and a genuinely scary sequence where one of the characters is confronted by what appears to be a ghost.

However, in other ways, the film is severely lacking. The dialogue is very clunky and what few lines that sound like they might be spoken by a real person are ruined by wooden delivery. None of the performers are especially good, but for a cast of first-time screen-actors being guided by a first-time director, they aren't as terrible as some I've witnessed, except for Brian Comrie. It's not that he was particularly bad, but the role he plays really needed to be performed by an actor with more experience and greater emotional range than Brian Comrie shows in this film.

"Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour" was obviously intended as the first installment in a franchise that was to continue either in future movies, novels, comics, or all of the above. I liked what I saw here to the point where I might give another film a try, or perhaps even pick up a graphic novel if the art is decent.

However, as I mentioned when I originally reviewed this film back in 2007, I doubt there will be a follow-up. And given that it's almost three years later and Sarah Landon hasn't been seen anywhere, I think this film performed badly enough to not warrant any follow-ons.

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