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BMZ Review: Haunted Castle 3D
By Herb Lash

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BMZ Review of HAUNTED CASTLE
Written by: Herb Lash
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: June 2001

     

Category: Reviews

In 1895, so goes the apocryphal tale, the Lumiere brothers scared the Parisian pants off the first motion picture audience with their short film featuring little more than a train pulling into a station. Some leapt from their seats and fled the theater for fear of being run-over. DirectorBen Stassen's 3-D Big Movie Haunted Castle (produced and distributed by nWave Pictures) is a technological marvel, but it ignores the fact that modern movie audiences are long past being scared or even entertained by the simple threat of being run over by on-screen images. Viewing Haunted Castle, much like IMAX Corp's Cyberworld 3-D and nWave's previous Encounter in The Third Dimension, feels like watching wonder-struck kids experiment with the coolest toys on the block. Thrilling special effect gimmicks lose their luster, and Haunted Castle makes no real effort at suspenseful or artful storytelling.

Young crooner Johnny is called away from his pursuit of the rock and roll dream after learning that his estranged and recently deceased mother has bequeathed him a far-off, spooky castle. But there's a catch: Mr. D, a gravelly voiced devil, likes to hang out in the castle fireplace. Mr. D wants to make Johnny an offer he can't refuse: rock and roll stardom in exchange for his soul. Through Johnny's eyes, the audience gets a tour of Mr. D's musical hell. Recognizable jazz, blues and rock ditties play from the floating instruments of dead musicians who had the bad fortune to sign on with Mr. D's infernal label. It's the standard Faustian contract; fame, fortune and groupies galore for a price. Johnny's mother proves a guardian angel and belts out a world music song that sets him back on the right track. He discovers the diabolical Mr. D's underbelly: the devil can't stand opera music. Johnny loosens up his pipes and unleashes an out of left field, go-back-to-hell aria that is by far the scariest thing in the film.

The music business-as-hell metaphor is a slightly clever construction and has about the shelf life of a good pun. Haunted Castle features two live action characters (Johnny and Mother) amidst the impressive swirl of 3-D graphics. Glimpses of the human actors are few and far between -- the camera seems almost afraid of its main character. Favoring a "through the eyes of Johnny" perspective is perhaps too obvious a nod toward cross-over, 3-D theme-park ride possibilities.

The film revels in showing off the fates of already doomed musicians. Scenes of skeletons trapped in ghastly torture chambers would be run of the mill if it were not for the employment of Large Format 3-D wizardry. The featuring of decapitated, acid-burned and electrocuted skeletons spurred the Imax Corporation to cry out an ill-advised warning against the film. But Family Values are safe for now. Most of the Haunted Castle images don't even push the envelope half as far as typical teenage gross-out films. Naturally, the producers have warmly welcomed the notoriety and on-the-house publicity.

The most encouraging aspect of Haunted Castle is the fact that it is different sort of Large Format film, and a real effort toward providing Big Movie film lovers with something besides the same old meat and potatoes.

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