"EVIL. IS. REAL."
Spirits is the latest film from Todd Sheets. Being from the Kansas City area Todd Sheets has always been a hometown hero of mine. In his early days when he was churning out flicks like Zombie Rampage, Nightmare Asylum and many others you could literally feel the passion for horror flooding out of the screen on any nearby tube TV that you had the pleasure of viewing it on. These early films from him were low budget DIY horror in its most primal form and although Todd seems to dislike these efforts that's were the passion started for me. Sheets took a brief hiatus from horror to focus on his radio show Nightwatch and also encountered some health problems before returning. Luckily these past few years the master of splatter has slowly but surely been making his triumphant return to horror. Unfortunately I've still not had the privilege to see The House of Forbidden Secrets but I was lucky enough to snag a copy of the limited VHS release of Spirits.
Spirits follows a group of teens who are obsessed with the paranormal investigation shows on TV. After one of the girls in the group scores a job at the Shadowview Manor she quickly hears rumors from coworkers that the building is haunted. Being the supernatural enthusiasts that they are they decide to sneak into the buildings after hours with cameras in hand. They show up with their fancy ghost detecting gadgets and soon realize they aren't alone in the building. They bump into the janitor that has been working the late shift there for ages. He is all too ready to give insight on the rumors of the building being haunted and begins to discuss all of the evil things that have occurred there over the years.
After a bit of conversation with the custodian the group notices the guy seems to have a few screws loose. He leads them down to a section of the building where he claims to feel the most energy and then heads off when his shift is over. The teens begin to play with the Ouija board in the dark room. Once the dial begins to move they become pretty startled. Little do they know a little Ouija board activity will soon be the least of their worries. The Shadowview Manor has a life of it's own and it believes that the supernatural isn't something that the local teens have any business meddling with. Banging starts happening throughout the building, dolls appear out of nowhere, chairs are found stacked and that's just scratching the surface of what our wannabe paranormal investigators will be experiencing.
Spirits is an extremely odd outing for Todd Sheets. It is done in the found footage style that has grown more and more popular in recent years. Normally I'm not a huge fan of this style but I love it when it's done right (which is not as often as I'd like). The really strange thing about the film though is the fact that it is completely goreless. Sheets has become well known for his extremely gory horror onslaughts that aren't shy about showing the red stuff. This proves not to be a problem for the film though, merely a surprise. The story doesn't necessarily call for much in terms of bloodshed.
The best thing about this movie is the very convincing performances from our tiny cast. This was achieved by the genius idea of not the letting the cast know what was going to happen or when it was going to happen. This technique got some excellent authentic performances from all the actors and actresses involved. One of the things that sets this one apart from the recent batch of other supernatural found footage films is this aspect. Spirits easily has the most convincing reactions from the cast and it doesn't hurt that the dialogue doesn't consist of them mentioning the fact that they are recording every few minutes.
The genuine performances really help cause the aspect of this movie that makes it shine above the others in this vein. Suspense. My main problem with many of the supernatural found footage films of today is the fact that the suspense is substituted for a constant array of jump scares, or, even worse moving the movie along at a turtles pace and trying to pass it off as suspense due to how shocked the audience get when something finally happens. Spirits doesn't have that problem. From the moment this begins to the very moment the credits start running this film is OOZING with suspense. When a horror flick gets my pulse racing a little more than usual that's a sign that it is a success. I watch horror movies everyday and nowadays the pulse pounding is a semi-rare occurrence for me.
Overall Spirits quickly shot up the list as one of my favorite Todd Sheets flicks and also as one of my favorites of 2014. I've got my fingers crossed that The House of Forbidden Secrets will be up to par when it gets released. Sheets sure set the bar high for his return to horror with this one. Highly recommend this to all the horror fans out there. Even if found footage and low budget horror aren't up your alley. This film surpasses the restraints of both of those things and prevails as just a damn good horror flick. Plain and simple. GET IT!