“Alone in the Ghost House” is a found footage film written and directed by Henrique Couto that follows a group of paranormal investigators who travel the country to capture tangible proof of paranormal activity for their reality TV show.
The film opens with the obligatory found footage trope, an onscreen message describing the origin of the footage about to play, indicating that the footage is from digital media cards recovered as evidence by the DeCoteau County Sheriff’s Department in 2014.
As the found footage opens, we’re introduced to Lana (played by Joni Durian), the host of a ghost hunting reality TV show, and Derek (played by John Bradley Hambrick), the principal investigator and husband to Lana. The show’s tagline is aptly called “Alone in the Ghost House.”
Around this time we’re also introduced to the show’s cinematographer, Ford (played by director Henrique Couto).
We learn early on that Lana developed some notoriety for prior work on television that helped grow the couple’s reality TV show. Both Lana and Derek are consummate believers, almost to a fault, and are hopeful that their investigations will lead to tangible evidence of the supernatural. Cinematographer Ford on the other hand, is the cynic of the group. He’s primarily concerned with the number of hours he’s contractually obligated to work each day of shooting. Ford is also a prankster and wise-mouth, constantly pulling pranks and cracking jokes from behind the camera.
Alone in the Ghost House delivers a couple of jump scares and sets up some well needed anticipation of something about to happen – although the cause it’s not what one might expect going into this film.
The first haunted house we’re introduced to is the “Worthington House” where a “grizzly murder suicide” took place. It turns out that this house has no strange activity other than a prank orchestrated by Ford. Here we’re also privy to some gratuitous nudity when Derek sets up a surveillance camera in Lana’s shower. These early scenes in the film provide some well needed character development and help establish the dynamics of the film crew.
The next day, the film crew drive to a second haunted house called “Devil’s Commune,” a former artist’s colony where one of the members killed everyone in the commune in a jealous rage over his girlfriend. En route to Devil’s Commune, the team pickup Sophie (played by Iabou Windimere), a local artist and Lana’s old college roommate who offers insight into the events that took place at this second haunt.
Upon arrival at Devil’s Commune the team is met by Anthony (played by Adam Scott Clevenger), a local real estate agent who provides Lana with the key to the house. Derek also enlists the services of a local psychic medium, Tabitha (played by Erin R. Ryan), to help with the investigation.
Tabitha is an odd personality, her behavior and techniques bordering on absurdity. During the first evening at the house, Tabitha conducts a séance, where she plays new age music, partially strips down, and engages in what can best be described as belly dancing. Soon thereafter Tabitha gets into a disagreement with the film crew and storms from the house.
Before Tabitha leaves, she gives the film crew a stern warning, “You have to go… It’s evil here… You’ll die here.” Is Tabitha’s warning foreshadowing of what’s to come or is she simply out of her mind? The film crew will learn the truth soon enough.
The filming reasons used in Alone in the Ghost House are all sound. The principal cinematographer, Ford, performs most of the filming using a handheld camera, following the activities of the other cast members investigating each haunted house. The filming is restrained, only capturing interesting and necessary events. Other members of the film crew wear head mounted cameras to capture first person POV footage when they investigate the house alone.
Found Footage Film Cinematography and Found Footage Purity
The cinematography in Alone in the Ghost House is well done. The filming of several of the reality TV show segments includes multiple takes where the cast members flub their lines, or where in one instance Ford accidentally bangs into a door jam while filming, and another where the camera focus is off. These small nuances make the filming appear more credible.
There are several occasions where Ford starts to panic, and one instance where he has an all-out panic attack. During these scenes, the camera is pointing towards the ground or moves haphazardly, which is to be expected when the cinematographer is not focused on filming. Additionally, the climactic ending of the film includes several noteworthy POV shots using a head mounted camera.
Plot and Acting
The general theme of Alone in the Ghost House is one that’s been played out in countless other found footage films, however, Alone in the Ghost House has a twist ending that clearly distinguishes it from the rest of the pack. While the conclusion of Alone in the Ghost House is unique, the final 8 minutes feel very rushed, making the end of the film somewhat unbalanced compared to the preceding 70 minutes. Alone in the Ghost House would have played out more evenly if the climactic ending were extended to match the pacing of the rest of the film.
Director Henrique Cuoto told Found Footage Critic that principle filming for Alone in the Ghost House spanned a mere three days, with a total of 20 hours of actual filming. Given these time constraints for a feature film, Alone in the Ghost House is a noteworthy accomplishment.
Paranormal themed films are expected to scare viewers, and Alone in the Ghost House delivers a couple of jump scares and sets up some well needed anticipation of something about to happen – although the cause it’s not what one might expect going into this film.
Alone in the Ghost House has a twist ending that clearly distinguishes it from the rest of the pack
While the cinematography and found footage filming are well done, it’s the acting where Alone in the Ghost House faces some challenges. Joni Durian performs well in the role of Lana, and John Bradley Hambrick performs admirably as Derek, but the supporting cast have a tendency to overact their respective roles, exaggerating their reactions to the events that unfold. These challenges along with the pacing (described earlier) hinder the film from effectively cashing-in on the tension that’s so painstakingly built up throughout the story. Nonetheless, Alone in the Ghost House does a good job at building tension, delivering good found footage cinematography, and offering some unique plot elements, making this film an interesting addition to the found footage film genre.