Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour (review)

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Scooby Don’t

It sounds like one of those impossible math problems: “Ben’s only been dead for 13 years. A spirit needs at least two years to review its previous life before it can reincarnate. If Ben reincarnated right after he stopped haunting Mom, that would make him 11 years old.”
You know, like, “A ghost leaves Chicago haunting at a rate of two poltergeistings per hour, while another leaves New York…” It’s the kind of supernatural nonsense that fills Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour. Well, more than the usual kind of supernatural nonsense we find in movies, that is, which at least typically attempts to make us forget that it’s all nonsense and give us some good scares. I know this PG-rated “thriller” is supposed to be aimed at kids, but honestly, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo and the gang got into spookier situations than this. There is a creepy real-estate agent here, but his yelling at the meddling kids is relatively minor. Nope, the flick is all subclauses about two-year-reviews-prior-to-reincarnation.

Please, the management reminds patrons that no one will be admitted during the dramatic “maybe we should check the Internet” scene.

Checking the Internet are Sarah Landon (Rissa Walters), visiting the tiny burg of Pine Valley, California, and local boys Matt and David Baker (Dan and Brian Comrie). There’s a ghost, and a curse, and a small-town dark secret that apparently absolutely everyone knows about. How small a small town is Pine Valley? “It’s a small town,” one character assures us. “There’s only one taxidermy club.” As opposed to those bustling metropolises that are simply teeming with taxidermy clubs, and where dark secrets know their place. At least the dark secret isn’t on the Internet, where the kids go looking for information that may help them figure out the whole haunting deal. They should have Googled “red herring” and then let director-writer-producer Lisa Comrie in on that secret of even the mildest of mysteries — she could have used the lesson.

Please, the management reminds patrons that no one will be admitted during the exciting “purchasing turnips for the Druid ritual” scene.

I knew there was something weird about this movie I’d been trying to remember, and I just got it: I wrote last year, in an article about nepotism in Hollywood, about the fact that Comrie cast not one, not two, but three of her brothers in this, her debut movie, and also cowrote the script with her uncle. In that sense, Paranormal Hour is a family movie. In any other sense, not so much. On the other hand, this is the only movie of 2007 that dared to note that “every year, 700 people die in electrical fires” and ask the question, “How many of those are started by evils spirits?” How many, indeed?

The DVD: Apparently this movie was sent to home video without any dessert. The only bonus material is “Frida’s Psychic Readings Game,” which is kinda like a video Magic 8-Ball. Ask Frida — she’s a character in the film — a yes-or-no question, such as, perhaps, “Will we ever see fulfilled the promise of the film’s official Web site, that this is ‘the first in a series of Sarah Landon mysteries’?” and you’ll get a random response like “It’s quite doubtful” or “Absolutely not.”

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