Ghost stories seem to fit into three categories. The first deals with people who happen upon the haunting after moving in someplace new, but who ignore the strange occurrences until it is too late. It’s hard to feel sympathy for them, because they’re stupid. The whole time you’re watching the movie, you’re yelling at them to get out. The second shows a person or persons who went looking for a haunting, and it’s harder to sympathize with them, because they got what they wanted, didn’t they? They’re the arrogant ones.
And the third, perhaps the most bleak, is what we have here in The Haunting of #24: the person who is trapped somewhere, being driven mad by the spirits, who neither sought this out nor blithely chose to hope things would get better. I don’t like to read a ghost story as “he’s just nuts; there are no ghosts,” but in the case of this third type of haunting you want to. There has to be a metaphor at work, or else we’re looking at a person who is dead already and ended up in purgatory. We’ve seen this story before, usually with an unsatisfying ending, and this one is no exception. If there’s no explanation, there is no telling whether the victim is insane or haunted. You can’t enjoy the person’s torment, because they didn’t do anything to deserve/prolong it, and there’s no sense in analyzing anything, so you only want to watch a movie like The Haunting of #24 one time. Fortunately, it’s surreal and creepy, so you’ll enjoy the ride.
John, having been kicked out by his girlfriend, rents a room in a run down apartment house from a jolly landlord. After moving his few things in, including a black and white TV and a boom box (with a cassette player and no CD player), he goes out in the backyard to smoke a spliff. Right away we get the ghost POV through the leaves cam, and we find out this is no place to be getting baked and paranoid, because there’s a grave with the words”Lie still” carved into the stone. John has outdated stuff because he’s a big loser, and he just gets more and more pathetic.
He can’t move out because he has no job and no place to go. Ghouls appear on his TV whether it’s plugged in or not, and he dreams of the landlord playing short-range catch (paging Tommy Wiseau) in a narrow room with a demon-voiced little girl under a flickering light. The one other tenant assures him right before she drugs him that the other inhabitants are not only dead, but they are also going to eat him. John kills his landlord, but the landlord is fine the next day. John steps out the front door only to find himself back in the house. His girlfriend, who thinks he needs a doctor, tries to stay overnight with him, but disappears and ends up on the TV. Oh, and there’s a photo of a dark man who keeps getting closer to the foreground of the picture who also shows up in John’s dreams. Nice enough fellow, I suppose.
The atmosphere right from the beginning is a bummer, yet you keep watching, because you feel you’re owed an explanation. Well, you might be, but you’re not gonna get one. This goes beyond simple ambiguity into incomprehensibility, unless of course, John is nuts. You know I’m not above digging deeper for a meaning, but this time it’s not possible. Still, director/writer Sean Hogan has potential, and star Stuart Laing is both good looking in a non pretty boy way and he can act, unlike most men who show up in indie horror. And I was frightened during the film, especially since an unplugged TV that’s still on is a big boogerbear for me; it’s just that the ending pissed me off. So if you have Netflix streaming, and you’re in the mood to be freaked out by the cinematic equivalent of eating sour gummi worms, check out The Haunting of #24. And then let me know what the fuck I just watched. Alternatively, go watch “The Meshes of the Afternoon” and then Eraserhead again.
Here’s a question. If you moved into a new place and any of the above happened to you, would you think that it was haunted, or that you were crazy?