J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Demon House: Paranormal TV Host Makes the Documentary Leap


If poverty and crime are a magnet for the sinister supernatural than Gary, Indiana should be Demon City, USA. It was there that Ghost Adventures host Zak Bagans bought a notoriously haunted house sight-unseen and got far more than he bargained for. At least that is the story he tells in his documentary (sure, go ahead and scoff) Demon House (trailer here), which opens today in Los Angeles.

Whatever went down in the house before Bagans took possession, it was freaky enough to make veteran police officers and child protective services case workers vow to never step foot in it again. Bad things happened to those who had been inside, including several near fatal accidents. The previous tenants had actually had an exorcism performed by Father Mike Maginot, a major supporting character in the film. They now refuse to have any dealings with Bagans, because they are afraid he could re-infect them with the demons or whatever it might be.

It would seem Bagans’ investigation extended the house’s tragic history by delivering up new victims, such as his home-inspector, who is reportedly diagnosed with cancer shortly after finishing his appraisal. Things really get ugly when a family of former tenants pays a spontaneous visit. Yes, we should all be skeptical, but at least in some cases, such as the murder of a psychic Bagans frequently worked with, the details can be quickly verified with a google search, which is sort of unsettling.

Retired Gary PD Captain Charles Austin also appears to be totally legit and not the least bit inclined to hysterics. Even for us rational positivists, he and Maginot lend the film a lot of credibility.

So, was the now demolished house really haunted? Of course not. Don’t be stupid. However, we can believe that Bagans and his crew really believed. Who knows what that can make possible when combined with some really terrible Feng shui. Frankly, Bagans over-relies on the sensationalistic tactics of his Travel Channel show. His constant teases and recaps always sound like they should end with “after these commercial messages.” Nevertheless, the demonic business is genuinely scary at times and often quite convincingly filmed/staged/produced/documented—whichever, take your pick.

It is inevitable that Demon House will be described as a feature-length episode of Ghost Adventures, but it is also an unusually effective one. We prefer to think of it as a found footage horror film that recruited talent connected to the real-life house that inspired the film. In any event, it is a creepy film that will not do the Gary Chamber of Commerce any favors. Recommended for fans of ghost-chasing TV and found footage horror movies, Demon House opens today (3/16) in Los Angeles, at the Arena Cinelounge Sunset.

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