Among the array of Found Footage and Paranormal Investigation films out, there are occasionally real gems to be found such as latest Sci-fi/Thriller/Horror movie Altergeist. Released by HeckArt Studios, on 7th November 2014, Altergeist was written and directed by Tedi Sarafian, who has written such films as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and The Possession of Michael King (2014). Altergeist follows the tradition of films such as Come Back to Me (2014), and Asylum (2008). Set predominantly in modern times and filmed in Sonoma, California, the story focuses on a winery, called King’s Ransom Winery, which has a long history of death, violence, and hauntings. Using a number of camera techniques including web diary and camera footage, the events in Altergeist take place over a long weekend.
Documentary filmmakers Dax (Mark Hapka: Days Of Our Lives TV series 2007-2011, Criminal Minds TV series 2014) and Therese (Kristina Anapau: Black Swan 2010, True Blood TV series 2011-2012), who is also pregnant with Dax’s baby, are invited to the King’s Ransom Winery by the owner, Ashen Till (David Weidoff: Roommates TV series 2009, Castle TV series 2011). They are joined by their film crew and friends- Sarah (Linsey Godfrey: The Young and the Restless TV series 2014, The Bold and the Beautiful TV series 2012-2015), Reporter Jason (Brendan Fletcher: Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed 2004, Freddy Vs Jason 2003), Cameraman/EVP/EMP Mike (Alexis Cruz: StarGate SG1: Children of the Gods 2009, Drag Me To Hell 2009), and Camerawoman Maya (Sarah Oh: The Crypt 2009, The Bold and the Beautiful TV series 2014), and all hope this will be the documentary a network picks up. Prior to their arrival, the winery was investigated by another paranormal investigator, who went missing a short time ago, but this does this not deter the group. The team set up their cameras and work spaces and immediately begin to investigate. Ashen explains the wineries dark, twisted history, some of which includes the murder/suicide of Henry Blaine (Ed Corbin: Revenge TV series 2011-2013, Weeds TV series 2010), Rachael Till (Jessica Spotts: Monday Morning 2012, Sadie and Kella: Lethal Ladies 2012), and the death of Ashen’s sister. Almost immediately, they are able to capture some evidence of these strange occurrences on film, and everyone including Therese become excited by the possibilities of actually capturing evidence of ghosts on film.
Initially the ghosts’ activities are innocuous and little more than little candles and cold breezes, but halfway through the film, whatever the unsettled force is at the winery, it begins to show its true self. Attacked by unseen forces, the group bands together as they are horrified to learn what really happened there. As they get closer to the truth, it becomes clear that there is much more to what is going on than what is on the surface. Not only has the activity become focused on one particular person, it is not one the viewer will expect. What could be so scary that even the dead are scared by it? The action increases and the special effects get better with each scene, building in intensity and brilliance as the story progresses. With history fated to repeat itself, Therese experiences every pregnant woman’s nightmare, and it seems she may have to go through it alone. Who will survive to tell the brutal and horrific tale of King’s Ransom Winery, or make the documentary that begs to be told?
The cinematography by Aaron Heck, who has worked on the successful television show Entourage (2015), and Agent Carter (2015), is edgy, creepy, and when combined with the special effects, is down-right scary. A surprising ending hints at a possible sequel, which will be one to keep an eye out for. Well-acted by a young cast, Altergeist explores a little utilised paranormal phenomena and provides a terrifying explanation. Right up until the end, the viewer will be glued to their seat, and truly surprised by the twists and turns. The characters’ backgrounds are revealed eloquently via flashback and injected with relevance into the storyline. An intriguing and thought-provoking story, Altergeist is a must watch. CrypticRock gives Altergeist 5 out of 5 stars.