31 Days of Halloween — Day 19: The Linda Vista Project (2015) — by Dr. Shock

hmp-linda-vista-posterEditor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

I realize there’s been an influx of paranormal research-themed horror films in recent years, but I have to admit that, when they’re done right, I still have a soft spot for them. Movies like Grave Encounters and Final Prayer impressed the hell out of me, and even when I find one that’s not quite up to snuff (Atrocious, Documenting the Grey Man), it doesn’t weaken my resolve.

The Linda Vista Project was inspired not only by a real place (Linda Vista Community Hospital, an abandoned facility in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, California) but an actual investigation (director JJ Rogers headed up the “Rated-P” paranormal research team, which spent several years looking into claims that Linda Vista was one of the most haunted places in the United States). A low budget affair, The Linda Vista Project gets off to a promising start, but loses its way well before the final act is over.
After taking time out to help a couple (Mauricio Mendoza and Yeniffer Behrens) rescue their late daughter’s spirit, which was being harassed on a nightly basis by an unknown demonic force, researcher Emily Strand (Whitney Anderson) and her assistants, Cassy (Kara Luiz) and Chase (Paul Dietz), continue their ongoing investigation into the paranormal happenings at the old Linda Vista Community Hospital, which closed its doors for good over 20 years earlier. Unfortunately, their time at Linda Vista is coming to an end; the building was recently sold, and the new owners (who are none too happy with Emily’s insistence that the location is haunted) plan to turn the property into a senior living facility.

Dawson (Christopher Allen-Nelson), who represents the new owners, is sent in to take some pictures of the hospital, and Emily invites him to join in on that evening’s investigation. Though skeptical at first, Dawson soon sees enough to convince him that Linda Vista is, indeed, home to many spirits, including one particularly evil entity that, for some reason, is more active than it’s ever been before. This being is so agitated, in fact, that Emily and the others fear they may not survive the night.

The opening scene, in which Emily rescues the little girl’s spirit from the force that’s been tormenting it, gets The Linda Vista Project off to an interesting start (even though the sequence itself is a bit anti-climactic). But it’s the early scenes in the hospital that are the film’s strongest, with Emily and the others explaining the finer points of paranormal investigation to a cynical Dawson as they take him along on their nightly walk. There are a few laughs (especially when Dawson starts getting creeped out by what he’s experiencing) as well as a jump scare or two, and while it’s basically a commercial for Paranormal research (gadgets and phenomenon are covered in detail) that relies a little too heavily on digital effects, this entire section of the film is good fun.

Alas, the final 1/3 of The Linda Vista Project goes completely off the rail, giving us everything but the kitchen sink (a battle between good and evil; a satanic ritual; chase scenes, and even a little family drama, including an explanation of sorts as to why Emily became a researcher in the first place). As a result, what had been a nifty ghost story in a creepy hospital setting buckles under the weight of far too many plot twists.

Even if JJ Rogers and his crew had stayed the course, odds are The Linda Vista Project would have been little more than a mildly entertaining diversion. But as it stands, it’s a decent concept that tries to do too much, and doesn’t live up to its early potential.

— Dr. Shock

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5 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 19: The Linda Vista Project (2015) — by Dr. Shock


    Day 19 – Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)

    Released only in February 1932, Murders in the Rue Morgue was the fourth Universal Monster movie of the sound era (Ignoring the lost films of 1930-1931). In fact, to give you some better context, the one year anniversary of the film film, Dracula, had only happened a week or two earlier. Murders even manages to nab “Swan Lake” to use as it’s opening credits theme prior to the December 1932 release of The Mummy, making Murders the first to borrow the theme previously heard in both versions of Dracula. Looking back, it’s crazy to think that of the first four Universal Monster movies, three of the four (Frankenstein) chose not to use “Swan Lake”. By the end of the year, four out of the six Universal Monsters would contain that opening theme. I realize these old films recycled ideas frequently, but that’s overboard.

    While Murders didn’t go so overboard with copying Dracula as the original Mummy did, there are some similarities. After opting not to star in Frankenstein, Bela Lugosi makes his film return to play as the evil Dr. Mirakle. I would almost credit Mirakle as being a hybrid of Dracula and Dr. Frankenstein. Like Frankenstein, he’s an outsider coming into town and quickly becomes obsessed with a local girl, Camille, with Camille’s boyfriend, Pierre Dupin, not trusting the intentions of Mirakle’s intentions from the very start. Despite the obstacles in Mirakle’s way, he’s determined to transform Camille into a creature more of his liking. Now, unlike Dracula, I felt Mirakle’s intentions are closer to Dr. Frankenstein’s where it’s all done in the name of science. He just wants to prove the link between humans and apes to help further cement the theory of evolution. Speaking of which, for a 1932 film, I found it surprising how often evolution was spoken about. It was only four months earlier that Frankenstein was censored to remove a line by Dr. Frankenstein where he exclaims that “Now I know what it feels like to be God!”

    While censors did let the evolution talk go through, there were reportedly a lot of cuts when it came to the violence. It’s with this knowledge that I would attribute many of the flaws of the film. To put it plainly, the film never tried to explain itself. It wasn’t until Murders was finished that I understood what Mirakle was doing with the women he kidnapped and unintentionally killed by injecting ape blood into them. One of the women he kidnapped was picked up after a bloody fight broke out between two men, leading to both of their deaths that the woman was at the scene of. Who were these two men? Why were they fighting? It’s never explained. I can presume they were fighting over the girl, but that’s as far as I can go with explanations. Serving as Mirakle’s servant/assistant is a bizarre characters known as Janos The Black One. Janos looks a bit like the werewolf in 1935’s The Werewolf of London. Yet, his character is never examined and what seems like a significant role is reduced to a background character that you’re instantly drawn into watching because clearly this unique looking character will be doing something important, right? Nope. Kicking off the big finale saw the talking ape, Erik, turn on his master and kill Mirakle. Why did Erik do that? It’s never explained, although I suppose it’s because he just wanted Camille for himself and was tired of waiting? I can’t even remember an actual moment of confrontation! Speaking of the fact that Erik was a talking ape, we never do learn if he and Mirakle could communicate with each other or not. By the end of Murders, I had a lot of unanswered questions.

    Perhaps it’s not a fair criticism, but Erik the talking ape was the big laughing point of the film. For any of the scenes where Erik didn’t need to interact with anyone, the filmmakers used an actual ape. That’s fine, but when Erik needed to get involved physically with an actor, they ditched the ape and used a guy in an ape costume. Again, that’s not necessarily bad, I wouldn’t want any of the actors having to put their trust in an actual ape. The problem is the ape they used and the costume worn looks nothing alike. It was awful whenever they transitioned back and forth and the head especially, had a completely different shape and size to it. In hindsight, I would have preferred to just have a guy in an ape suit for the entire film. At least that would have been consistent. Erik is tied into something noteworthy about the film though. After Mirakle’s death, Erik grabs Camille and begins alluding help by climbing onto the roofs of the nearby buildings. This particularly stands out with the realization that the legendary King Kong would not be released for another forteen months! I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on ape films, but I can’t imagine there were many other movies pre-King Kong that saw the ape carrying the helpless woman from building to building. That’s pretty cool, actually.

    Despite the censors getting in the way of some of the violence, it wasn’t completely eliminated. There’s a pretty crazy scene early in the film as Mirakle has the kidnapped woman tied to a wooden X, cutting her for a sample, and causing her to scream. For 1932, it’s all pretty unsettling. Later on in the film, Erik is let loose inside the apartment of Camille, to kill off her mother and kidnap Camille. In this scene, we don’t see the guy in the costume or the mother actually attacked. Instead, it’s just closeup shots of the actual ape going crazy and striking the mother (Out of camera shot) from above. It feels violent and brutal. Later, it’s even revealed that Erik had stuffed the mother upside down in the chimney to set up a scare with the police finding the body.

    Overall, I wanted to love Murders in the Rue Morgue, but I couldn’t reach that point. The great elements were there, but they were hampered by the lack of explanations, possibly related to the cuts, and the laughable scenes with the real ape and a guy in an ape costume. The good is strong enough to check out Murders, although it would be near the end of my Universal Monsters recommendations. It’s the sort of film you’d watch after the great ones, you’re still in the mood more monsters, but you’re not ready to subject yourself to some of the lousy entries in this time period (IE. She-Wolf of London).

    Rating: 6/10

    • Aww, I love this film! 7.5/10 would be my rating, so not far off, but I do like it more than I would rate it’s quality. Still, this film is pretty disturbing, even for today. The scene where he’s injecting the women with ape blood is really messed up.

      I’m not sure if audiences at the time would have been able to pick out the ape suit on a first watch. There weren’t home videos to rewatch these films, so they might have gotten away with it at the time. As a modern viewer, I kinda love the cheesy ape suit.

  2. Day 19 – Basket Case

    This one was a surprise. I have just been working down a list of 80s slashers that I have missed, and I have been really pleasantly surprised. Along with Madman and Return to Horror High, Basket Case impressed. The acting and production value itself are laughable, but I felt like I was in on the joke. The filmmakers knew what they were making. The monster/twin/blob in Basket Case is simultaneously schlocky garbage and also somehow still scary. I went in to this blind. I honestly thought I was in for a run of the mill slasher, and boy was I wrong to think that. I don’t think I’ve seen anything else with so much screaming. haha. Anyway, Basket Case is crap, but it’s enjoyable crap. It’s worth a watch if you like schlock, gore, and gratuitous screaming. 7/10

  3. Day 19: The Neon Demon (2016)

    Rating: 8/10 (high-priority rental)

    — — — — — Contains spoilers — — — — —

    What I liked:
    – Beautiful, stylish and over-indulgent; a perfect (if, perhaps, a bit on the nose) reflection of the superficial world the film portrays.
    – The soundtrack is rad.
    – Jesse’s extreme transformation had me thinking she would be “the demon,” which made the ending that much more shocking for me.

    What I didn’t like:
    – The story and characters feel a little half-baked.
    – A bit obtuse.

  4. Day 19: Ghostbusters (2016)
    Rating: 8.5/10

    I saw this movie in the theaters so this was my first rewatch. This is a really fun film and I liked it just as much the second time. The cast is great and the comedy is good. A little more horror would have been nice.

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