Sarah Landon And The Paranormal Hour

2007, Movie, PG, 81 mins


Optimistically positioned as the first in a series of kid-friendly supernatural mysteries, this amateurish film tacks a Harry Potter-ish title onto a tale of Nancy Drew-style sleuthing.

Seventeen-year-old Sarah Landon (Rissa Walters) lives in San Diego, but has happy memories of her early days in small-town Pine Valley. When she hears that Megan, a childhood playmate, has died, she drives down to pay Megan's grandmother, Mrs. Shaw (Jane Harris), a quick visit. But her car dies and local mechanic Carlos (Michael Silva) can't fix it immediately. Kindly Mrs. Shaw, a recent widow, is thrilled to have Sarah stay for a few days, and Sarah is happy to reacquaint herself with Matt Baker (Dan Comrie), another childhood friend who's matured into a dishy young man. Mrs. Shaw puts Sarah up in the guesthouse, and also fills her in on the sad tale of Matt's family. Not long after Sarah's family moved away, Matt's cousin, 21-year-old Johnny (Rick Comrie), died in a car accident. His father, Ben (Rusty Hanes), blamed the driver -- Matt's mother, Mary Ann (Nicole des Coteaux) -- and threatened to kill her eldest son on his 21st birthday. Ben died of a heart attack on the day of Johnny's funeral and Mary Ann, convinced that Ben was tormenting her from beyond the grave, had a nervous breakdown. As his 21st birthday approached, David become reclusive and immersed himself in the occult; now, with the big day just 72 hours away, he's convinced that Ben's vengeful spirit is going to kill him. Not that retired science teacher Mrs. Shaw believes any of this supernatural stuff, of course. Sarah isn't so sure, especially after having a dream in which Megan (Dakota Jade) warns that she's in danger. So Sarah and Matt team up to get to the bottom of his family's misfortunes.

Like John Schneider's equally DIY, family-friendly action picture COLLIER & CO.: HOT PURSUIT (2006), this production is a family affair. First-time director Lisa Comrie co-wrote the screenplay with her uncle, co-produced with her uncle and father, cast three of her brothers in prominent roles and starred family friend Waters as Sarah. Though catering to the niche market for clean genre movies is savvy, the filmmaking is borderline incompetent – the acting varies from okay to awful, the cinematography is unpleasantly soft and the tone is badly misjudged. In particularly, the supernatural plot elements are developed so unconvincingly that the story seems to be about people ruining their own lives by believing in stupid superstitions, so it’s a shock to realize the ghostly goings-on are meant to be taken seriously. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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