In a world of over-produced horror, let’s take a look at a microbudget film about a haunted house.
So, let’s start with a theoretical situation. You come to home to find your door open and house trashed. Would you keep filming (for no reason) or call the police? If you answered the prior, you could be in this movie.
Bad Ben is an interesting film. It is directed by and stars Nigel Bach who is acting as Tom Riley. Is seems that Bach wanted to see how cheaply he could make a film. The budget is non-existent—and Bach carries the show by himself. Before delving into the quality of the film I have to commend the effort. Bach proved that one person with an idea and a few cameras can make a horror film. This film is what found footage was meant to be—new ideas and used as a way to make a film affordable. I applaud this sort of creativity, and would take this film over another overly polished PG-13 crapfest any day.
Tom is a likable narrator, though it doesn’t make a ton of sense why he keeps filming everything. He even comments on this himself, and while this adds to his likability, it still makes the whole thing a little weird. The oddity of found footage is a problem that will likely persist.
Anyway, Tom buys a house from a police auction, and almost immediately finds that there is something wrong with the property. The mystery surrounding the house is uncovered in trope-like style. He uncovers signs of rituals, graves, and violence, but never leaves the house. He remarks that his life savings is tied up in the property, which is meant to indicate to us that he cannot leave.
Tom’s reactions to the scares range from believable to completely deadpan, and it is hard to tell whether or not he is actually taking the events seriously for a large chunk of the film. The haunting seems to be more of annoyance to him than any sort of threat, and somehow this works. Tom is a funny protagonist in that he simple doesn’t care about decorum (desecrating graves) and shows little fear (taunts the ghost numerous times). Having an affable lead is a must in this sort of film as he is literally the only person we interact with as the audience.
The film quality is uneven—as should be expected with the tiny budget. The shots are not bad, and the camera is held better here than most films of the genre. The special effects though, these are somewhat easier to see through. The film editing does not take into account the lighting of the shots, so we can tell when something was spliced together. Despite the flaws, the editing is surprisingly well done for a film with no crew.
Bad Ben is more entertaining than many found footage films because it is actually deploying the methodology correctly. The camera angles are not corner cutting here, but rather the only way the film could have been made. In other words, this is a cheaply made film, but not a cheap film—if that makes any sense. While all of this is commendable, the film is kind of boring. There is tension with no real pay off, and we end of kind of slogging towards the conclusion. A jump scare might get you, but that is about it.
Overall, this film is for fans of the genre or people interested in seeing how minimally a film can be made. For these audiences, the film will likely be enjoyable, but pry not for anyone beyond those groups. 5/10