Writer, director and star Nigel Bach finds scares and humour go well together in his found footage horror film Bad Ben.
Anyone can make a found footage horror film these days. You don’t need a lot of money to acquire the cameras and editing software to put together your own Paranormal Activity knock-off. And you can even do it without professional actors or leaving your own home. Nigel Bach’s Bad Ben is a perfect example as the fledgling writer-director becomes a filmmaking one-man-band, controlling every element of the process from editing to special effects to, presumably, feeding the crew (himself), as he turns his house into a harbinger of paranormal doom.
But there’s a distinct difference between having the equipment to make a film and an ability to put that into practice to deliver a good one. And in Bad Ben, we get to see the twisted imagination of its creator writ large; his talent, particularly in the editing department, showcasing a rich understanding of suspenseful pacing and the cinematic mechanisms to give audiences a jolt to the nerves.
Filmed from an array of security cameras as well as the mobile phone footage recorded by the protagonist Tom Riley (Bach), we follow a recent house buyer as he moves into his new home with the intention of flipping it for profit. It is revealed that he has spent his entire life savings to make the investment. When strange things that can only be attributed to paranormal activity begin occurring, Riley is understandably less than enthused about leaving.
There is a comic streak to Bad Ben – largely the result of Riley’s sharp temper and seeming inability to get spooked – that injects a few laughs into proceedings. This wit helps alleviate several plot holes and contrivances that threaten to derail Bach’s attempts to terrify the audience. It also reminds us why laughs in horror movies work so well. But this isn’t a comedy. Indeed, Bad Ben manages to find several unnerving moments that make it one of the more effective “haunted house” found footage films to arrive in the wake of Paranormal Activity.
Thankfully, Bach’s creative talents aren’t limited to his work behind the camera. He provides us with an engaging protagonist whose self-regard would be quite unlikeable were it not for the malevolent spirit making his nights go bump. Even if his plight lacks our sympathy, not least because of the umpteen chances he has to escape, there’s mileage to be had in somewhat siding us – the audience – with the antagonist. It certainly finds a vein of originality in what is otherwise very well accomplished but by-the-book filmmaking.
Indeed, Riley’s apathy towards the evil entity puts a twist on convention. This is the first time I’ve seen a protagonist angered into goading the spirit to do more after being plunged into total darkness. Or getting a bloodied nose after being awakened in bed with punches to the face only to antagonise the entity by putting its belongings in a shallow grave. This guy doesn’t run away, he’s happy to go towards danger. Sadly, it isn’t maintained. The uninventive finale re-inserts typical genre tropes. But the fun is to be had getting there.
Written by Dan Stephens
Directed by: Nigel Bach
Written by: Nigel Bach
Starring: Nigel Bach
Released: 2016 / Genre: Found Footage Horror
Country: UK / IMDB
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Top 10 Films reviewed Bad Ben courtesy of video-on-demand service Amazon Prime Video.