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Compete silliness
lje326771 January 2004
The first thing to remember about this film is that it is a spoof on the serious ones based on the subject.

Geological scientist from the George Washington Institute are in the small Californian town of Fartham studying earth movements. Suddenly flares begin to go off and fires start. The locals believe it is a ghost who is rampaging.

Back in Washington DC, at the Institute, Dr. Jonathan MacKensie(Trevor Eve) is giving a lecture on anthropology. His most important concern is whether he will get a grant to continue a research project. The Dean over his department, Dr. Juliana Moorhouse(Nina Foch) knows she can bully him. She tells him that Mackensie is the new head of a new department which investigates the unexplained and paranormal. She makes MacKensie a deal. If he looks into a couple of the cases she has chosen, she will give him the grant for his research project.

So MacKensie heads to Fartham. He witnesses the Fartham entity in action as it blows up cans of paint and burns symbols into the houses of the people on Briarwood street. In searching a cemetery he comes across the grave of Robert Pence. Pence is a local who had been delving to closely, according to the locals, into the occult. He is killed in the process of conducting an incantation. MacKensie also meets, Edgar "Benny" Benedek(Dennis Dugan). Benedek is a free lance writer who specializes in the paranormal. He also writes for a tabloid magazine. MacKensie is completely unaware of this side of Benedeks investigations until he is informed by Dr. Moorhouse. Moorhouse reluctantly gives MacKensie permission to use Benedek as an assistant. Together they discover how Pence was killed and what is causing the "hauntings".

This is a pretty straight forward predictable film, but there are some seriously funny moments. Hermione Baddeley is very funny as Mel Lacy, the "wall feeler" from Liverpool, who feels walls to find where the ghosts are hiding. In order for her to be in sync, she has to drink an old family recipe. This is not the usual alcoholic drink. It has boiled mice in it. There is a scene in a restaurant where MacKensie is eating a nice dinner and his privacy is invaded by Benedek who introduces him to a unigue dish from Eastern Europe. Chocolate ice cream, garlic and turnips.(I haven't gotten the courage to try that one yet.) In the middle of this scene, enters a young blond woman who is claiming her cash from Benedek and is obviously a prostitute, creating a very awkward moment, which is enjoyed by MacKensie. There are other moments that made me smile.

This is a very silly movie and probably deserves only 2 to 2.5 stars, but I enjoyed it and watch it when I can. All the actors did well, the directing and editing were great. I haven't seen the series, that continued from this pilot movie, but it didn't finish it's first 13 episodes, so it was probably pretty bad.

Like so many things in Hollywood, ideas get worked and reworked and 8 years later this idea got reworked into one of TV's most successful science fiction series, the X-Files.
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7/10
Fairly entertaining comedy/suspense
helpless_dancer19 February 2000
A sleazy tabloid reporter teams up with a college professor to investigate the strange occurrences in a small town. They get no help from the suspicious, fearful, and in some cases, eerie inhabitants of the town. They finally solve the mystery of why these occult phenomena occur, and what a surprise it is.
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2/10
Better watched as a pilot
eddax16 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
*Spoiler warning*

This TV movie was probably written as a pilot for the series that ensued. It runs like a way-too-long episode of a series that - if this pilot is any indication - is at best moderately interesting, especially with an annoying lead character. The movie spends way too much time establishing the uncharismatic characters - investigators of the supernatural - and working on a mystery that turns out to have nothing to do with the supernatural at all. The only thing I liked about the movie was the concept of the house (that's revealed at the end). 2/10
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