This movie will give you a crippling fear of chain link fences.
Hayley (Katie Flynn) is a ghost whisperer, who has just arrived at a top secret military instillation. The soldiers have captured what they call a “supernatural entity,” and they want Hayley to communicate with it. She finds the creature to be childlike, but volatile. Hayley finds herself in the middle of a conflict, with power-hungry soldiers on one side and a malevolent spirit on the other.
What we’re dealing with in Stormhouse is a haunted house movie, only set in an underground military base (they can’t all be gothic mansions). A key element of any haunted house story is the manifestations. How will the filmmakers make the presence of an unseen spirit visible? In this movie, we get some disembodied voices, a couple of otherwise inanimate objects floating around, and few scenes where the ghost possesses someone else. Mostly, though, Stormhouse disappoints when it come to the manifestations. The ghost is kept inside a large cage made of chain link fence, located inside a huge room deep underground. There are occasional orange CGI flashes around the cage—which we’re told is not the ghost but an electromagnetic field keeping the ghost trapped—but other than that, we’re supposed to be all scared while looking at a big chain link fence. This big immobile fence is essentially the movie’s “monster.” Disbelief, not suspended.
Another disappointment is the back story. Author Stephen King has famously said that any haunted house story is really a history story, in that the heroes must explore the history of the house in order to deal with ghost and find out what it wants. Frustratingly, we never get this in Stormhouse. We never learn what the entity is, where it came from, or what it wants—other than it wants out of its cage. At times, the ghost is monstrous, attacking and killing hapless soldiers, but at other times, it’s childlike, wanting to play games and making people it possesses sing nursery rhymes. The problem is that we’ve all seen stuff like this in dozens (hundreds?) of other ghost stories. If you were to ask me what makes this ghost different from other movie ghosts, the answer would be a big ol’ shrug. I’m sure the filmmakers already have an elaborate back story for the ghost, which they hope to reveal piece by piece in future sequels, but that’s not enough for this movie.
Katie Lynch does a good job as Hayley, taking the character on a journey from excited-to-be-there to terrified-out-of-her-head and then finally to determined-heroine-willing-to-do-whatever-it-takes-to-survive. The soldier actors fill their tough guy roles easily, although everyone’s accents are all over the place, so that I’m not clear on where this movie takes place (U.S. troops stationed in England, I’m guessing?). Some scenes are beautifully filmed, with the screen almost entirely black except for a few of the characters’ features lit, providing a sense of how isolated and doomed they are. The DVD captures this nicely, with a clean, sharp picture, and equally clean 5.1 audio. We also get a short featurette and the movie’s trailer.
I hate to be such a downer. I was really pumped to see this movie. A bunch of soldiers confronted by a ghost? How would they fight it, since their guns and other weapons can’t hurt it? It seemed like such a cool idea. Instead, we get…a chain link fence.