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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nightmare in Bridgeport A POOR MAN'S PRODUCTION OF A HAUNTING IN
Florida NIGHTMARE IN BRIDGEPORT draws some parallels to arguably the
most chilling episode of the HAUNTING series (this side of a HAUNTING
IN CONNECTICUT) ... A HAUNTING IN Florida. A haunted rambler. Check.
Ghosts resulting from deaths on the property. Check. A father with a
background in the armed services. Check. A demonic presence. Check. An
unsuccessful attempt at a cleansing or exorcism. Check. A house
abandoned and that to this day remains unoccupied. Check. No question
we have all the elements of an interesting story. So why didn't I feel
the haunt? Why did the Billy Idol wraithlike rendering of the demon in
NIGHTMARE IN BRIDGEPORT fail to frighten me as much as the misty black
figure that leaned over the baby's crib? Florida was built on the
fundamentals of storytelling. Information was delivered in its proper
course and in the right sequence so that tension could be escalated and
released. There could be no answers before there are questions, and the
storytelling brought out in its viewers an intrigue -- a curiosity --
that prepared them and foreshadowed developments yet to come. The maze
was built and we were led through the maze.
By contrast NIGHTMARE IN BRIDGEPORT reveals within the first few minutes a male ghost, a voice through a heat vent, and human bodies buried beneath the home. Even before that, the episode opens by giving us a glimpse of its conclusion (an unsavory feature of all Season 5 episodes to date), in which the bishop is pushed down the stairs to the basement. This convoluted arrangement undercuts tension, intrigue, and rhythm. A well-told story is like a melody. I never realized that until I heard this disharmonious mess that was as much a labor to follow as it must have been to tell. I guess I'll have to go back to "humming" chords from SUMMERWIND and Florida like I did at times over the past 5 years.
The highlight of NIGHTMARE IN BRIDGEPORT takes place when the child haunting victim turned paranormal investigator opens an investigation into his own haunting by reviewing photos of the home and discovering in the magnification of the orb the mouth of the demon he'd seen in the basement. How much more compelling this could have been if the orb was given a somewhat more organic (i.e., less CGI) quality and if the demon was creepier. One need not look to the chauffeur from Burnt Offerings (1976) played by Anthony James (mercifully no photo available on IMDb) or the face of the floating Ralphie Glick from the 1979 Salem's Lot to find inspiration. One could look as close as the demon from HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT, the ghost "Joseph" from THE WHEATSHEAF HORROR, the floating head of the female demon in THE PRESENCE, the faces in the photos from THE ATTIC, or the obscure face in the window of HIDDEN TERROR.
As with the preceding two episodes, the special effects used to transition between scenes feel as indigenous to the story as a prosthetic limb. They have a clunky post hoc feel to them. Before the HAUNTING series fell into its five year coma, these effects felt like an intrinsic, "organic" part of the scenes they precede and follow -- a natural and subtle segue.
The writing was its usual Season 5 horrendous self. Pray tell does Tony Call cringe before -- or after he reads lines like "but Bobby cannot hide from the horrible thing that's about to happen?" This is revolting dialog.
The acting is no better. I like the fact that the production staff realizes that the quirkiness of the character acting is a strength and source of stimulation for Seasons 1-4. But there's a difference between quirky and dreadfully bad. I recognize five of the actors from previous seasons, including from this episode Jennifer Pulley (Stalked by Evil, 2007), Kiersten Armstrong (Echoes from the Past (2007), and the spiritualist from The Attic (2006). The fact their acting is far worse this season probably has less to do with any diminution in skills -- after all they're not aging gymnasts -- and more to do with writing and directing. Not only are they saddled with revolting dialog, but I'd swear there was no one directing. I am also inclined to think that with the exception of a few returning actors, the program now gets its actors from a different registry / service. With the exception of an appropriately demure / subdued son from ANGELS & DEMONS, the bizarre acting from the children in these episodes looks less like character eccentricity and more like a blend of cognitive impairment and developmental disorder.
And in addition to those four actors, something else about Nightmare in Bridgeport hearkens back to the original seasons. The soundtrack. NIGHTMARE IN BRIDGEPORT recycled the theme from WHERE DEMONS DWELL. What made each episode from the first four seasons special was that each had its own original score. The sound production was an integral part of the supernatural overtone in the first four seasons. This element is a conspicuous no-show three episodes into Season 5.
I feel for the people who have to endure these hauntings. I'm sure they go through hell, and I'm sure they're grateful someone is telling their stories. Now let's tell these stories well.
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