The Bates Haunting (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)
Updated: Feb 24
The Bates Haunting
THE BATES HAUNTING (2013)
Starring Jean Louise O’Sullivan, Zachary Fletcher, D'Arcy Webb, Randy Bates, Dawn Sobolewski, Aleksandra Svetlichnaya, Ashley Caspermeyer, Greg Smith, Steven Nicholas Smith, Matthew Mastronardi, Robert Haag, Shawn Sieger, Max Siege, Rocco A. Amato, Jim Cope, Samantha Valdellon, Titilola Verissimo, Ryan Dunn and Bam Margera.
Screenplay by JL Stremberg.
Directed by Byron Turk.
Distributed by Uncork'd Entertainment. 86 minutes. Not Rated.
The Bates Haunting is both a cheesy low-budget horror film and an infomercial, all wrapped up in a big, blood-red bow.
The product it is hawking is The Haunted Hayride and Bates Motel, a well-known Halloween attraction in Glen Mills, PA (which is in the suburbs of Philadelphia). Every year, a local farm creates a scare fest which runs from late September to early November, a ride full of screaming ghouls, whirring blades, giant dragons, bloodied corpses and eerie tableaus.
Or as their website puts it: "For over 20 years, the Haunted Hayride at Arasapha Farm has been scaring its visitors with amazing props, digital FX, great actors and extraordinary professional makeup.... The Haunted Hayride is a 25-minute, action packed, heart pounding ride through the dark forest of Arasapha Farm, located just outside of Philadelphia PA, and is filled with huge, detailed sets, giant monsters and more pyrotechnics than a KISS concert."
Over the years, The Haunted Hayride and Bates Motel has gotten an international reputation as one of the most well-respected Halloween events in the US. (For the record, the attraction has nothing to do with the film Psycho or the new TV series Bates Motel, other than taking the motel name from the story.)
The Bates Haunting takes on a really simple and yet brilliant horror idea. What if this haunted attraction was actually the site of a series of violent killings? If you are watching an actor supposed to be killed in some classic terror tableau, would you even notice if it were the real thing? Would a series of employee fatalities hurt or help the reputation of a place which is celebrating death and destruction?
It's an interesting concept, one which may be a little more complicated than this joyful exploitation flick is willing or able to explore.
The Bates Haunting is not very good as a horror film. The acting is pretty hit or miss, the storyline makes no sense, the dialogue is awkward, the special effects are laughable, and you know who the bad guy is the very first time you meet him. Yet you can't help but have a certain affection for the movie. The very game "Let's put on a show" vibe of the film is kind of like a video version of the ride itself.
When you are going to a haunted house, you're not looking for good acting and cutting edge SFX. You're looking for people in bloody sheets to jump out at you in the dark, cheap thrills and cheesy scares.
I have no idea for sure, but on a guess, I'd say that much (if not all) of the cast of The Bates Haunting are the actual employees of the Bates Motel attraction. Therefore I'm going to give them a certain amount of leeway if some of them really can't act. These aren't people who are trying to play the Bard on the Great White Way. These are people who happen to love their job scaring people and they want to share the love with the people who can't make it out to the farm.
Some are good actors: Lead actress Jean Louise O’Sullivan is actually very skilled, though she is not given an overly complex character. Others are not so: Zachary Fletcher is overacting so extensively that it quickly becomes distracting. And the rest of the Bates cast, whether they have the chops or not, are obviously having a ball paying tribute to their favorite fright films. If this cast is really made up of Bates Motel employees, special props go out to Dawn Sobolewski, who really took one for the team by taking on the iconic horror film role of "topless girl who gets mowed down while having sex."
The whole thing seems a little haphazardly thrown together. The end credits of the screener I saw had the title Welcome to the Bates Motel, a name that was undoubtedly dumped when the TV series Bates Motel debuted. Before the film starts there is a quick intro-ish stunt by Viva La Bam star Bam Margera. His late former co-star Ryan Dunn also does a bit as a pissed off customer.
But if you were looking for some shiny, slick, antiseptic, professionally made film, you probably wouldn't be searching in these woods. The Bates Haunting wears its cheesy grindhouse roots as a badge of honor.
And now, thanks to some enterprising filmmakers, the attraction will live on in infamy. You may have a little trouble finding it in theaters, but The Bates Haunting will undoubtedly be available at the Haunted Hayride gift shop for many years to come.
Copyright ©2013 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 1, 2013.
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