It’s that special time of year again- when buying bulk packages of candy isn’t frowned upon, the prices of Halloween costumes skyrocket, gory and morbid decorations on your lawn don’t result in a frantic call to police by your neighbors- and when I suffer through the worst of the worst horror movies Netflix has to offer solely to rip them to shreds for your reading pleasure.
Despite braving bad acting, even worse CGI, and pointless plots- I had a lot of fun with my “Horrors of Netflix” series last October. So much fun, in fact, that I’ve decided to do it again this year. The great thing about Netflix, apart from obvious perks like convenience and a wide selection of critically acclaimed shows and movies available to stream in an instant- is that there is a never-ending supply of poorly written independent endeavors to choose from. Just type “horror” into the search bar, hit enter- and prepare yourself for what is essentially a game of Russian Roulette with awful films.
Choosing a movie to kick-off this year’s collection of reviews was a challenge, especially since my very first “Horrors of Netflix” post last year was one of my favorite, love-to-hate films, “Dead End.” After perusing titles and posters for a good length of time, I decided on “A Haunting at Silver Falls” from 2013. Clocking in at just over an hour and a half, this movie has been given 1 1/2 stars via the Netflix page.
The synopsis, also from Netflix’s page:
“In this creepy thriller, an orphaned teen arrives in a Pacific Northwest town to stay with relatives, only to find herself haunted by murdered twins.”
Now, I detail these movies from start to finish. I spoil pretty much everything. I regret nothing (except maybe watching the movie in the first place,) but I digress- if you want to see this film for yourself- DO NOT CLICK THE “READ MORE” LINK. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
Let’s do this.
As movies like this usually do, it begins with a shot or implication of someone’s horrible demise to set the pace for supernatural or gruesome developments later on in the film. In this instance, wedged between the opening credits giving the director and main cast member’s names- we see a young woman running through the woods in the middle of the night. Naturally, she loses her footing- and takes refuge behind a tree while she catches her breath. The camera focuses on a ring on her finger as someone is creeping up behind her. They yank her off screen just as the title of the film comes into focus. When we next see her, or what’s left of her, the lower part of her body is being dragged past her severed hand. Again, the ring is in focus. My bet? It plays an integral part of the story.
Twenty years later, and another ring comes into focus- this time, what looks like a class ring, that is being twirled around the finger of a snotty teenager whose name we have yet to learn as she gets dressed. Her foster mother comes into the bedroom to try and have a candid heart to heart, both about her clueless-ness when it comes to motherhood and about wanting to do right by the girl’s deceased parents, but said snotty teen is, well- a pain in the ass- and shuts down any attempt at kindness from her caretaker, even when the confused and visibly hurt woman suggests that they just “be friends for now.”
Downstairs in the same house, another teen- who I have dubbed Hipster Harry Potter, turns down an offer of cookies and milk from an older man sitting on the couch across from him, saying, and I quote: “I’m not a milk drinker, per se.” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? Anyway, it becomes clear by the style of interrogation coming from the older guy that Mr. Potter is there to take the snotty teen out on a date. The foster father asks if he’s taking his adopted daughter to Silver Falls, which is immediately acknowledged as being haunted- and Harry Potter vehemently denies that he has any desire to go there. It’s stressed that the brat upstairs JUST lost her father- and is therefore going through a rough patch.
Sure enough, they end up at Silver Falls at some party called “Burning Mannequin” (which actually sounds 1000000000% more interesting than Burning Man, to be honest,) where there is the expected amount of teenage drinking and drug use. Harry Potter, who is actually named Larry- which is almost too perfect- ends up buying a few pills from the “rebel teen” stereotype at the party before he goes to cuddle up under a tree with what’s-her-face. He offers her pills, audibly presuming that she’d take them because she’s from Los Angeles- but she turns them down despite his attempts to coerce her. The conversation eventually transitions into Mr. Potter telling his date about the multiple, terrible deaths that have taken place in Silver Falls- which for whatever reason, seems to put Orphan Annie (I honestly didn’t catch her name,) in the mood.
Just as the two idiots prepare to make out- the cops show up to crash the party. The teens flee, and naturally- get separated in the confusion. While walking aimlessly and looking for Larry, what’s-her-face happens to look down at the ground and find- you guessed it- the ring from the murdered girl in the very first scene laying in the grass. As she picks it up, an apparition appears behind her. When she puts the ring on, the “rebel teen” stereotype finds her and tells her Larry’s been arrested, and that he’ll take her home. On the way, they get pulled over by the police- and while they wait for the officer to approach the window, Orphan Annie asks the walking, talking stereotype to identify her under a false name. No red flags raised there, of course.
Turns out, the cop is rebel teen’s father (rebel teen being named Robbie, by the way-) and the reason he’s being pulled over is because he has a tail light out. He finagles some gas money out of pops before he drives off, After some horrible pick-up lines and attempts to seduce Orphan Annie, who flat-out rejects his advances- she arrives back home- and leaves Robbie and his gigantic, hideous truck in the driveway. His tail light is just fine, by the way.
Inside, what’s her face grabs a photo we later find out is of her and her recently deceased father before she raids the kitchen and attempts to get the ring she found in the forest off of her finger. It doesn’t work, and rather than cut it off- she instead just goes to sleep with it, presumably to worry about it in the morning. Of course, the ring is technically stolen property- at least in the eyes of the ghost of the dead girl in the forest from the beginning of the film, who shows up while Orphan Annie is sleeping and stares creepily at her from beside the bed. There’s some cheesy CGI effects as the ghost frantically tries to yank the ring off of Orphan Annie’s finger to no avail, but she does succeed in rudely waking her up in the process, instead. Seemingly pissed off that she couldn’t get her ring back- the ghost goes on to throw the supernatural equivalent of a hissy fit and mess up a series of framed photos downstairs.
The next day, after a family breakfast that goes better than I expected it to- it’s hinted that Orphan Annie’s new foster mother is actually her aunt- her late mother’s sister. Afterwards, unable to reach Larry on his cell phone- she instead goes to his house and proceeds to be insulted by his father, a Doctor, and blamed for Larry’s arrest for possession of pills. You know, the ones he bought himself. All on his own. With no encouragement from- Oh! Her name is finally revealed to be Jordan! Okay, anyway- Jordan gets insulted by Hipster Harry Potter’s creepy father and told he’s forbidden from seeing her outside of school. As she goes to leave, Larry throws her a paper airplane message from his window. It’s a drawing of a heart that looks like it was scribbled by a five year old. I’m concerned about this couple’s ideas of what they consider to be romantic.
With the ridiculous drawing stored neatly in her room, Jordan is doing homework when her bedroom door opens on it’s own. She closes it- only to have it open again when she gets back to her studies. She tells her aunt and uncle, who laugh off her visibly freaked out state like the responsible adults they are- and Jordan attempts to go to sleep at their urging. The ghost returns, attempting to get the ring off of her finger once again- even going as far as to try and chew it off while Jordan dreams visions of the woods and said ghost girl running away from an unknown assailant. When she wakes up, there’s spit all over her finger. Horrified and (rightfully) grossed out, Jordan goes to wash her hands and once again tries unsuccessfully to remove the ring. It’s here that she notices she also has dirt all over the bottoms of her feet- leaving a trail of muddy footprints from her room to the bathroom.
The following morning, after being asked by her aunt if she’s seen a scarf that has gone missing- Jordan asks if her mother used to sleep walk. Her theory that maybe she’s inherited some weird trait is swiftly shot down, and Jordan leaves for school. Her aunt heads upstairs to her room- where her uncle is waiting, and then they close the door. Wait, what? Don’t they have their own room?
At school, Jordan is further sexually harassed by Robbie before she meets Larry in the library, who seems to think that Jordan is going to break up with him because Robbie drove her home. After the two kiss and make up and I wait for the ghost to come back and slaughter them both- Jordan tells Robbie she can’t get the ring she found off. He brings her to what I think is the men’s bathroom to try and wiggle the cheap looking metal off her finger with soap- not that she hasn’t tried that multiple times. It actually works as the two kiss, but when Robbie goes to hold the ring up to show Jordan he’s good at something- the ring is mysteriously back on her finger. Jordan muses that she feels like “the ring chose her,” and then she’s seen biking home well after school hours when it’s dark out. Is no one concerned about her whereabouts or her well-being? Anyone? Her new foster parents, perhaps?
At home, Jordan is confronted by her aunt and uncle who reveal why they were in her room after she’d gone to school. They received her file from whatever agency was responsible for her before her arrival at Silver Falls- and she had a history of shoplifting and recreational marijuana use (or as most of us refer to it, “being a teenager.”) Jordan doesn’t deny the allegations, even going as far as to admit that she was acting out after her father got a new girlfriend and that she wanted to be caught. After rifling through her things in her absence, her caretakers have found stolen money and the scarf her aunt had been looking for earlier that morning- both of which Jordan denies taking. In what is clearly the next rational step in discipline, or at least talking to their new daughter/foster kid- Jordan’s aunt and uncle inform her they scheduled an appointment for her to see a shrink- Larry’s father, to be exact. The guy who hates her. Brilliant, What could go wrong?
After handing out the punishment, Billy Ray Cyrus and Jordan’s aunt literally SEAL her in the bathroom with nothing more than a sandwich so that they can go out on a date and not have to worry about her running away or something. I’m not kidding. I thought Jordan was a brat when this movie first started, but now I’m starting to sympathize with her. Who decided these two morons were fit to raise a teenager? Oh, and by the way? The ghost is in the bathroom with her- because of course.
While Parents of the Year are out smoking pot, laughing about how awful they are at their responsibilities, and making out just outside some restaurant- Jordan has fallen asleep, curled up with a blanket on the bathroom floor while somewhere, Child Services are blissfully unaware of what’s happening. The pissed off ghost turns on all the faucets, filling the sink and bathtub which somehow doesn’t wake Jordan up despite the fact that the water is coming out full blast and is loud as hell.What does wake up her, however- is when her head is suddenly being held under water. Billy Ray and New Mom come home just in time to hear a scream for help coming from the bathroom- but are unable to open the door. Just as Jordan’s uncle goes to kick it open- the door opens all on it’s own. There’s no trace of flooding or water damage, but Jordan is laying, catatonic, on the floor. Rather than bring her to a hospital- where she belongs- they stick a pill that I don’t think she’s been prescribed down Jordan’s throat and carry her into her bedroom so she can sleep off whatever traumatic phenomenon just happened to her.
I know that when I’m attacked by vengeful spirits- a good nap afterwards always gets me back in fighting form.
While Jordan sleeps/stays in a coma/who knows- the ghost is sitting beside her on the bed, seemingly feeling remorseful as she watches over her somberly. Maybe she can relate? Maybe she had shitty foster parents, too?
The next morning, Jordan comes into the dining room where the ghost is sitting at the breakfast table with her aunt and uncle. Jordan assumes it’s another foster kid they’ve brought into the house- accusing them both of attempting to start a sibling rivalry as some sort of reverse psychology- until she, you know- actually gets a good look at the stranger;
She’s freaked out, OBVIOUSLY, but even after visibly hallucinating a person right in front of them- AND what happened the night before- Jordan is still ordered to attend her therapy session with Larry’s dad. The ghost is apparently coming along, too- since she’s next spotted riding in the backseat of the car when Jordan’s uncle goes to bring her to the appointment.
The therapy session goes about as well as you’d expect. Larry’s dad is an unprofessional dick and Jordan just wants it to be over with- not only because of his dick-ish-ness but because she has a dead girl staring at her the entire time. At school, Robbie approaches her, inviting her to a waterfall in Silver Falls while her undead BFF glares from the distance. She only briefly disappears when Larry approaches to tell Robbie in the most awkward way possible to fuck off and leave his girlfriend alone. Robbie is quick to moderately overpower Larry to prove his point before he saunters off. Jordan suggests her and Larry ditch school after such an embarrassing display and head to the cemetery, where they talk about Jordan’s therapy session and she finally confesses she’s seeing a dead girl while browsing the headstones. It’s through this conversation, with Larry being unbelievably understanding (more so than a certain aunt and uncle,) that we learn Jordan’s mother died from drowning- but not accidentally. She willingly walked into the water. She’s also worried she’s going to go off the deep end, too.
With the ghost starting to head off in her own direction, Jordan suggests they follow her. They’re on her trail for a bit until suddenly it’s nighttime (HOW LONG HAVE THEY BEEN WALKING?) and the ghost stops outside a bar. While Jordan explains what she’s seeing to Larry, she happens to glance down as the most convenient clue ever- a newspaper that makes mention of murdered twins- blows against her feet. Really? Anyway, the ghost points at a TV in the bar- freaking out as the news covers the story of a man due to be executed that night for the murders of the aforementioned twins. Jordan goes into the bar, ignoring the bartender demanding her I.D., to watch the news. Entranced, Jordan fails to notice her aunt, uncle, and Larry’s father sneak up behind her. They think she’s already gone off her rocker and are having her involuntarily committed despite all of this happening fairly recently.
Worst of all? Larry was in on her intervention. Damn it, Hipster Harry Potter.
“Involuntarily Committed” apparently means sitting in Larry’s father’s house later that night with everyone and being threatened with sedation should she act out- which makes me want to see this guy’s credentials immediately. Does he have a hidden stash of Propofol, too? Is he even a real Doctor? The answer is clearly no- especially when the subject turns from Jordan’s mental state of mind to a serious discussion about “The Doll Twins,” a pair of ghosts that haunt those in Silver Falls who even mention their names. Yeah, I’m lost, too. Anyway, Larry owns up to being the one who exposed Jordan to the tale of the Doll Twins, having casually dropped tidbits about them when he and Jordan were at the Burning Mannequin party. Again, I reiterate- Damn it, Hipster Harry Potter.
Those who have come in contact with the twins eventually believe that the man on death row for their murder is not the actual killer, and that the REAL person responsible will come and find them. In order to avoid meeting a similar fate as the twins- those afflicted with the visions kill themselves- rather than take up a self defense class, or buy a gun, or something. Jordan is given the choice by Larry’s father- she can either accept reality, have a sit-down conversation with the guy on death row for the murders (which he swears has helped other afflicted girls in the past, for some reason,) or die from her hallucinations. It’s the most asinine choice in the history of asinine choices- but Jordan chooses the jail- and is remarkably allowed in to talk to a guy scheduled to die in about an hour. Alright, then.
The guy on death row, Wyatt, is actually the twins’ father, and much like Robbie is the rebel, bad-boy teenage stereotype- Wyatt is the cocky, unhelpful inmate stereotype. Until he recognizes the ring on Jordan’s finger, anyway. He states that he and both of his daughters had the same ones, and gives her his matching ring to the one seemingly permanently fixed on her finger while explaining his dead daughter(s) are trying to tell her something. He also hints at his innocence, and advises her to lie to Larry’s father and tell him she doesn’t see the twins anymore. He then leaves Jordan, and his last meal- an ice cream sundae he only took two bites out of- behind. What a waste of perfectly good food.
Back at her aunt and uncle’s house, Jordan waits until they’ve left her to sleep for the night before she puts on the ring Wyatt had given her- prompting both of the twins to appear to her, this time in a school bus inexplicably parked outside. They open her bedroom door, and even though her aunt and uncle have left the room no less than two minutes earlier- Jordan makes no attempt to keep quiet as she sneaks out of the house to go and consort with the undead sisters, boarding the bus. The ghosts are suddenly nowhere to be seen, but the bus begins to move along anyway after Jordan takes a seat- only stopping once it’s somehow made it into the middle of the woods to let her off. Once there, Jordan is confronted by the twins who OF COURSE tell her in unison, that “she’s next,” (because creepy twins. That’s why,) before she wakes up back in her bed at her aunt and uncle’s house.
Robbie calls Jordan at the house while she’s trying to eat her cereal in peace to tell her he knows she’s not crazy and wants to show her something he thinks is important. She declines his offer, and instead goes outside to help her uncle- who we FINALLY learn is named Kevin (I don’t have to keep calling him Billy Ray Cyrus now,) chop some wood while her aunt leaves to run some errands, albeit reluctantly. Kevin and Jordan have a brief conversation about what a dick Robbie is, how his police officer father is an enabling dick, how it’s important to keep the dick law enforcement on your side in Silver Falls, etc. etc. One of the two ghosts appears- motioning for Jordan to stop chopping wood and get her ass moving in whichever direction, and Jordan complies.
Running inside to pen a short, apologetic goodbye to her aunt and uncle and pack some clothes- Jordan sneaks into their bedroom to find some money to hold her over. While rummaging through their things, she finds the third and final ring belonging to the trio of Wyatt and his daughters, and photographs of her aunt and who I think is her mother. Jordan’s aunt comes home, and naturally- walks into the bedroom- catching her niece mid-snooping and expressing her disappointment.
Jordan awakes, bound and gagged, under the floorboards in the basement. Above her, her aunt and uncle are having an argument. Her aunt, Anne (nothing like learning names with only a few minutes left in the movie,) accusing Kevin of still talking to/thinking about someone yet to be identified- which is why she’s still around- and apparently making the lights flicker a lot. They both agree to kill Jordan and throw her in Silver Falls to make it look like a suicide, given her aforementioned goodbye note- when Hipster Harry Potter shows up to try and apologize to his girlfriend for the danger he inadvertently put her in. Anne and Kevin deny him access, of course- before they close the door in his face.
Larry is leaving the flowers he brought for Jordan on her bicycle parked outside when he happens to overhear Anne and Kevin talking in ridiculous detail about the tools she’ll need to pick up at the store in order to effectively kill their niece who is currently locked in the basement. I mean, there is no room for misinterpretation- that’s how specific they get- including mentioning that they’ve done this before, quite possibly a few times. I knew they were shitty foster parents- but they’re even worse murderous, criminal masterminds. Anne takes off to get whatever is needed for the massacre, leaving Kevin alone in the house to watch Jordan until she gets back.
With Anne gone, Kevin scrambles to free Jordan before his wife returns, but it turns out it’s a sick game he plays prior to Anne torturing and eventually killing their victims. He gets off on the fear. Anne gets off on the brutality. With this, Jordan realizes that he and Anne are responsible for the death of the twins, as well as those who supposedly killed themselves after being haunted by their ghosts. They also killed Jordan’s mom- and when that comes to light- Jordan lunges at Kevin, which she should have done ten minutes earlier since he doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of physical prowess going on. She really could have kicked him in the chest (or balls,) sent him down the stairs and broke his neck or something. It probably would have been surprisingly easy.
Larry finds his way into the basement as Jordan continues going slap-happy on her uncle, and takes the initiative by smashing Kevin in the head with a shovel, knocking him unconscious. Larry then makes rookie mistake numero uno by dropping his weapon and letting his guard down. The ghost appears to Jordan, standing beside Kevin’s wood-chopping ax- and Jordan quickly takes the hint. She’s about ready to deliver the coup de grâce to Kevin’s cranium when Anne comes back. The briefest of brief struggles ensues (seriously, it’s like a three second fight before Jordan smashes her Aunt with a 2×4,) and with Larry’s help and the ghosts instructions- they tie up the still unconscious Kevin and Anne and stick them in the space under the floorboards where they’d previously held Jordan. They also put the rings on Kevin and Anne’s fingers- enabling them to see, and be harmed by, the twins.
When Anne and Kevin come to, the twins are waiting- and in another moment of poor CGI, they crawl into the space beneath the floorboards and presumably butcher the couple. Roll credits. End of movie.
So, first- let me just say that in terms of acting- this movie could have delivered WAY WORSE performances. The girl who played Jordan (Alix Elizabeth Gitter) wasn’t half bad, and Tara Westwood’s portrayal of Anne wasn’t cringe-worthy. Also, for a movie so poorly rated on Netflix- seeing Erick Avari, who has been in SO much stuff- was pretty entertaining (he played Larry’s dad, by the way.)
Good attempts by an earnest cast were otherwise lost on a movie that made little to no sense at all. Robbie and his father’s significance to the plot is never examined. We’re never given a reason why Anne and Kevin kill or why out of all of their victims, the twins are the only ones who haunt people. The fact that the twins’ ability to haunt via word of mouth is also mentioned once but never brought up again. Why didn’t Wyatt finish his ice cream sundae? Did Larry’s dad know Anne and Kevin were serial killers? Why couldn’t the twins just tell Jordan she was living with a couple of crazy people and save her a LOT of trouble? Why did one of them try to drown her for no apparent reason? Where did Jordan buy her clothes because she looked fashionable in every scene- even the ones where she was in peril.
So many questions, and no answers.
But this is “Horrors of Netflix.” We’ll never get answers.