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Amber Joy Williams
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Four college students at Ohio University set out to make a documentary proving that spirits and the paranormal are not real. In order to do this, they plan to film their investigation of an old lunatic asylum in Athens, OH. Their investigation proves more than they could have anticipated. Written by
It's the found footage genre again, with an intriguing and extraordinarily well produced little gem from virtual unknown Brandon Landers and a cast who play themselves with such convincing aplomb that you'll find yourself wondering, despite knowing that it cannot possibly be so, whether this is a case of life imitating art.
It isn't. You're watching a drama. But the realism is sublime, and the voyeuristic entertainment so often overlooked in this shaky cam style of movie-making is here in spades.
The found footage phenomenon has a certain fan base, and that fan base will either love or hate The Ridges. If, for example, you enjoyed Grave Encounters or REC, you'll find The Ridges amateurish and long winded. Because it's a lengthy film and much of it is far too subtle for its target audience. In making something for the most likely target audience, I think, Landers has failed - but it's a good kind of fail because in refusing to pander to the demands of the status quo (whether by design or by accident of bad editing) what results is cult classic; an atmospheric fly-on-the-wall experience in which suspension of disbelief is virtually total and we, the audience, find ourselves as close to seeing an actual paranormal event unfold as we're ever likely to come.
The premise is simple. Collage buddies Rob and Ryan and their respective girlfriends Roberta and Alana are a typical gang, not too bright, not too driven. They have an idea for a school project which, in some vague way, involves disproving the idea of the paranormal by taking a video camera and spending one night in an abandoned lunatic asylum.
So far, so familiar, although in these things the intention is usually to prove the existence of ghosts rather than disprove them.
There's a big build up in which we become as cosy with the group and their peripheral friends as if we were part of the frat lifestyle ourselves. Ad-libbed conversations are easy, arguments are as realistic as they come and the hackneyed way the group throw together their project is such a perfect observation of modern college life that you won't believe you're watching a performance.
To his credit, Landers never falls back on screamers, ghostly apparitions of wraith-like creatures crawling across ceilings or extreme close ups of white faced, eyeless monsters with gaping mouths. if that's what you're hoping for, prepare to be disappointed. The horror here is psychological and as subtle and smart as it gets, but no less shocking for it. The final scene, which lasts perhaps no more than thirty seconds, is one of the most disturbing things I've witnessed in a movie of this genre to date.
In short, a brilliant piece of work but ultimately a failure in its idiom because teenagers will be bored, technical fans will hate the footage (often unwatchable) and hardcore horror fans won't get the gore they crave. But for die-hard advocates of smart, new and innovative indie film making The Ridges is nothing shy of perfection.
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