Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour

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Freestyle Releasing

NEW YORK -- To say that an indie movie has the feel of a home movie is normally just an insult, but in the case of "Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour" it's literally the case.

This misbegotten, video-shot attempt at a tween horror franchise -- a sequel has already been promised -- was created by and stars numerous members of the Comrie family from San Diego, who clearly made some sort of deal with the devil, or at least an executive of Freestyle, to get this film into theaters; in a wide release, no less.

The story centers on the efforts of its titular heroine (the appealing if unpolished Rissa Walters), a sort of low-rent Nancy Drew, to solve the mystery of a curse from beyond the grave. The prospective victim is Sarah's friend David (Brian Comrie), whose upcoming death when he hits the age of 21 was promised years earlier by the grieving father (Rusty Hanes) of a young boy killed in a hit-and-run accident involving David's mother. The fact that he died of a heart attack shortly thereafter seems to be no impediment, since his ghost makes periodic appearances to remind us of his sinister intentions.

The film, directed by Lisa Comrie, is amateurish in every respect, from its stilted acting to its ugly video photography to its cliched dialogue to its cheap-looking special effects.

The fact that its lead actress is actually a normal young woman, rather than the anorectic but big-breasted heroines of similar Hollywood-made genre efforts, is to be commended. And the PG-rated film, clearly geared to younger audiences, is refreshingly free of extraneous gore and violence. But that doesn't excuse a substandard execution that is more suited for public access cable television than the big screen.
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