Of the people who make regular appearances in SyFy movies, Corin Nemec is one of my favourites. After his starring role in 90s TV gem “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” (aka Faux-Ris Bueller’s Day Off), he’s had a few regular TV gigs, but he seems to have settled on low-budget genre fare like this, where his faint air of self-mockery tends to elevate whatever he’s in – our favourites being “Mansquito” and “Sand Sharks”. How does he get on with this?
“Sinister Sites” is a show very much in the vein of “Ghost Hunters” or “Most Haunted”. It has a group of field investigators plus Quentin French (Nemec), the face of the franchise / studio host / douchebag. A drop in ratings forces two changes – Quentin has to head into the field to host the show from on-site; and they hire a new co-host, psychic Heather Burton (Charisma Carpenter). We’ve already seen the house where they’ll be filming kill a kid way back in the 1950s via flashback, so really we’re just waiting for it to tee off against the crew (four people, which seems very low for what’s apparently a network show).
It’s a completely standard haunted house movie, with the added bonus of a group of self-aware victims – they’ve faked so many spooky moments down the years that it takes a long time before they start believing what’s going on is real. The local intern gets eaten by a hole in the wall, the multiple generations of former residents help or hinder the crew (there have been a lot of deaths in this house down the decades) and Heather wanders round the house saying the sort of thing psychics in these movies say, with a portentous look on her face. She’s got real powers, of course. They’re trapped, too, which is completely normal for these movies, and the cameras start malfunctioning. You know the drill. The use of sound recording and EVP to puzzle out some of the mysteries is well done, bringing in some of the movie’s few genuinely creepy moments.
Unfortunately, the way this movie sets itself apart from the herd is by being rubbish. It seems they’re trying to behave as stupidly as possible at all times, ignoring huge hints and even breaking the law and trying to bribe their way out of it. At one point later on they say “let’s stick together” then immediately separate themselves from each other; plus, they have a ton of evidence of the actual supernatural, evidence which will set the world on its head, and their reaction isn’t “this will make us the most famous people on earth”. It’s a group of idiots, who can’t decide if they’re supposed to be assholes or good guys, and their preparation for this location shoot appears to be nil.
Weirdest of all, though, is Corin Nemec. It might not be immediately apparent but once you notice it you can’t un-notice it – he’s never in the same shot as any of the other cast members. He travels to the house separately and doesn’t even get there til an hour or so into things, then he’s outside the house having a shouted conversation with the people inside – you occasionally see another shoulder in the shot with him, but it’s carefully done so you can’t tell who it is (meaning it’s an extra with the same hat on). How they match angles is quite clever, but it’s not like Nemec is that in-demand a name, so why didn’t they just have him there with everyone else? Or just hire a Richard Grieco or David Chokachi to take his place if he was too busy?
Add all this to an ending which rips off nothing more than “Manos: The Hands Of Fate”, and you’ve got yourself something rather curious. Writer Anthony C Ferrante is now much better known as the director of the Sharknado movies, but I can only assume there were some filming problems or something here that hampered whatever they were trying to get at; or perhaps the idea was just flawed to begin with and there’s precious little the scriptwriter could do. Too much told, too little shown, which seems to be a common complaint at the moment, and too many wild assumptions made by the cast which are just correct. SyFy really could have done more with this idea.
Rating: thumbs down