When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time in the back of movie theaters. It was there where I first batted my way to first base (Crocodile Dundee II), second base (Millennia) and third base (Dad), all of which I slid into face first and which — in the end — were individually horrible, traumatic experiences, the details of which I’ll save for my YA memoir. But, God bless the britches of those truly shitteous flicks for providing us a quiet place on a Saturday afternoon to make out without fear of being interrupted by other theatergoers, who rarely existed and the ones that did were doing exactly the same things we were doing (walk into the worst movie on the marquee on any Saturday afternoon in small town America and you’ll probably need to bring a hose to separate the audience members. You could run the local power grid on the hormones alone.). And all I can say about Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour is that this movie is going to be responsible for at least a one percentage uptick in teenage pregnancy rates over the next few weeks and, if you unwisely choose to see this film, a bit of advice: Bring a seat cover, lest you find yourself in a seat recently vacated by a couple doing the stinky pinky.
As to the merits of the film: Honestly, I have no fucking idea what I just witnessed. None. That was an ungodly surreal experience on par with being fellated by a hungry barracuda while your Mom stands over you and cleans your ear with a Q-Tip: In other words, it was painfully awful and it made no goddamn sense. Can anyone tell me who the hell Sarah Landon is? Is there something going on in the ‘tween market that has escaped my notice? Are they doing some sort of new drug that alters their mind in such a way as to enliven the dull and appreciate the inept? Or are they just dumb? I simply don’t get it. Have I been duped? Was Sarah Landon a mindfuck Halloween trick that theater exhibitors played on America? And was I the only critic who missed out on the joke? As of this writing (Saturday afternoon), there is only one review of Sarah Landon on Rotten Tomatoes, this despite the fact that it opened in over 1,100 theaters across America. I’ve never seen an advertisement, and not even IMDB has five user ratings yet. There is no way that this movie belonged in even one theater — much less 1,000. And based on early box-office numbers, this puppy made a whopping $157 per theater on Friday; do you have any idea how hard it is to open with a per screen average that low? That means I single-handedly accounted for nearly 5 percent of my theater’s per screen average yesterday.
And the irony, of course, is that the cost of my admission alone probably put Sarah Landon in the black — it couldn’t have cost more than $7 to shoot this film. The damn thing was filmed in someone’s backyard with camcorders and some assistance from MS Paint. Hell, I’ve seen cable-access shows with(significantly) larger budgets. In fact, knowing absolutely nothing about the film, my initial fear was that I’d walked in on the theater’s employee orientation video because I haven’t seen anything this low budget since those rapture films they used to show on projector screens in roller rinks down in the Bible belt during the 80s (do they still do that?). Truly, that was my next thought: That this was some proselytizing horror film — that Kirk Cameron was going to jump out of the shadows, ask me if I’d accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and that teenage boys in white short-sleeve dress shirts were going to assault me with “literature” and Gideon Bibles on the way out. I’m completely flummoxed, folks. And there is almost no information about this movie on the Internet, so research is out of the question. Maybe someone out there in Pajibaland can explain how this film came to be screened on over 1,100 theaters? Or even who these “actors” are? Or if Sarah Landon is supposed to be someone I should be familiar with?
Anyway, since no one has or will see this film, it seems entirely unnecessary to provide a plot description, but I’ll say this much: It was supposed to be a horror film — well, a “scary” film, at least, a PG movie designed for family audiences. Very, very dumb families. It was written by Lisa and John Comrie; Lisa directed it; and her two brothers, Brian and Dan Comrie, were two of the leads. Sarah Landon was played by Rissa Walters, who was — I shit you not — a family friend. None of these people have previous credits to their name, and I can find nothing of substance online about The Comrie Family, though clearly — well-intentioned though they may have been — they had zero business being in the movie industry. None. Porn flicks are better plotted. Where they got the money to distribute the movie I have no idea, though the fact that Freestyle Releasing was the distribution company behind it makes a little sense: Their second biggest film of all time was D-Wars.
At any rate, the movie is about Sarah Landon — her car breaks down and she has to spend the weekend with Mrs. Shaw, an old lady with negative-zero ability to act. While stuck in the town of Pine Valley, she hears the story of Johnny Woods (yet another Comrie boy), a good kid who was killed in a car accident. His father makes it his sole pursuit to kill the son of the driver, Matt Baker, when he turns 21 (“an eye for an eye,” the toothless hillbilly says). However, Johnny’s father dies of a heart attack on the day of the funeral. But, years later, his spirit comes back to haunt Mrs. Shaw’s place, ultimately inhabiting Mrs. Shaw’s body, prompting her to pick up a shotgun and go after young Matt Baker during the paranormal power hour between midnight and 1 a.m. However, while Sarah is looking on from behind a bush, the apparition is ultimately warded away by the spirit of young Johnny, who rides by on his bicycle and says, “Dad, don’t do it,” which is apparently all it takes to dissuade a ghost from killing someone.
Too bad no one rode by on their bike and asked the Comries not to make this film.
Update: There are now four user ratings on IMDB — three ones and a perfect ten, likely from another family member who exclaims: “Make no mistake, Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour is an independent film by first time director, Lisa Comrie. It is raw, clever, scary, and groundbreaking.” Groundbreaking?! Only if it’s screened simultaneously alongside earthquake activity.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives in Ithaca, with his wife and son. Please, leave a comment or send an email.
Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour / Dustin Rowles
Film | October 23, 2007 | Comments ()