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directed by Michael Bartlett, Kevin Gates
UK 2013

 

The five hundred year old St. Mary's church in Clophill was a picturesque ruin (having been replaced with a newer church in the center of town) for most of the twentieth century until rumors of devil worship (including the desecration of a grave in 1963) soon gave way to more numerous reports of paranormal activity that have continued to this day. In 2010, a quintet of documentary filmmakers - including co-directors Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates (THE ZOMBIE DIARIES), a couple Craig Stovin (the upcoming THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: MOTHMAN) and Criselda Cabitac (ZOMBIE DIARIES 2) who both have had encounters with the paranormal, as well as two skeptical likely-victims so interchangeable they're both named Mark (although the actors use their own names, so it's probably not intentional) - decide to investigate the ruin after viewing video which seems to support the various testimonies about an apparition called "Sophie". Their first two nights are spent with various eyewitnesses and a paranormal society (whose unique brand of EVP scanner picks up some phrases that take on a more sinister significance as the investigation continues) produce results just tantalizing enough to make the crew think that a night alone at the site might get them definitive results.

There is much about THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL that is familiar for viewers of umpteen BLAIR WITCH-esque movies - although this isn't really a "found footage" flick - movies (night vision cameras, sustained shots that tempt the viewer to peer into the shadows), but it still achieves a palpable sense of dread because the filmmakers use restraint rather than trying to merely imitate more successful models (as was the case with HOLLOW). The contemporary talking heads with the video footage illustrating their recollections does detract somewhat from the suspense, but the film doesn't reveal its entire hand until the end. Said ending features the usual frenzied running through the dark with cameras, but it wisely seeks to produce a shudder rather than a jolt. One can't help but feel a little disappointed in the ending after the buildup, but this entry speaks promisingly of the filmmakers (I have not seen THE ZOMBIE DIARIES or ZOMBIE DIARIES 2, but I am intrigued by their in-production THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: MOTHMAN). The ruin of St. Mary's is a truly atmospheric setting (much of the background information about the church including the desecration is indeed true), and it seems the filmmakers got their filming in just in time as English Heritage is planning a restoration of the church.

Eric Cotenas

Poster

Theatrical Release: 14 October 2013 (UK)

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DVD Review: Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Second Sight

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:28:06 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.31 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 5.1; English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Second Sight

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by writer/director Kevin Gates
• Audio Commentary by actors Craig Stovin, Criselda Cabitac, and writer/director Kevin Gates
• 'Tales from the Graveyard: The Clophill Archives' Deleted Scenes (16:9; 22:54)
• Trailer (16:9; 1:25)

DVD Release Date: 14 October 2013
Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Second Sight's dual-layer, anamorphic DVD is dark and grainy, but that's the conceptual design of this film. The image quality is inconsistent, but the film was shot in HD on a DSLR (Canon EOS 7D), consumer camcorder (Canon HV20), a GoPro HD Hero 2 (which has no manual exposure or focus), and a professional 1080i camcorder (Sony HVR-A1E) - some of which are seen in the film - for a varied look. While a stereo mix (like the Dolby Digital 2.0 track on the disc) is usually enough for most films of the genre, the surround track does get some good mileage out of collapsing to the front for talking head scenes only to introduce whistling wind into the rear channels or sudden music stings that give way to effective droning cues that underline the screaming and yelling in the front channels (a 2.0 downmix is also included, but the 5.1 is the way to go).

The film is also accompanied by two commentary tracks. Co-director Kevin Gates goes it alone on the first track. He reveals that it was shot in 2010 and underwent a long post-production period while he was working on ZOMBIE DIARIES 2. The project was began without a script (some of the footage like the opening with the couple was shot without the directors' involvement, and their recounted experience with the paranormal is actually their own story); however fictionalized, it was still considered an investigation (with scripting done later in the production to bring together what was filmed with what they planned to shoot, particularly all of the third night material shot almost two years later). Some of the "real" people are plants while others are actual folklorists, paranormal investigators, and locals.

Gates joins Craig Stovin and Criselda Cabitac - who are both actors, but were brought into the production because of their joint experience with the paranormal - on the second track. They discuss what bits were staged (including some bits Gates only now reveals to the other two here that he set up) and which were happy accidents, which elements from the film tie into real local history (as well as their own discoveries they were able to integrate into the story), the security and police presence required because of all the kids that come to the location to scare themselves, as well as a humorous bit about criticism of Gates and Cabitac for supposedly leaving their kids on their own for the weekend (thanks to Gates trimming out the mention of the babysitter). Both are worthy listens if you enjoyed the film itself. The twenty minutes of deleted scenes provide some nice additional context to plot points in the film, but the film works well enough without them.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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Distribution

Second Sight

Region 2 - PAL

 




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