SPOOKERS sure is charming. I don’t know if it’s OUR IDIOT BROTHER charming, but it’s got something to it that I can’t deny. The sad part is, whatever that thing is, it’s buried.
The premise: in New Zealand, there is a year round haunted house in an old mental institution. It’s a really good haunted house, by all indications. They’ve got a corn maze (CornEvil, a pun which took me too long to get), they’ve got several floors of terror. Apparently, the whole thing started out of the family’s wool shed. One year, they had to send the sheep away to another farm to get shorn because they’d dedicated the whole wool shed to the haunted house.
The other premise: in New Zealand, in the early 20th century, sanitariums were the norm. Big, secluded mansions and properties where the mentally ill were forced to live and tortured until they were vegetables. Under sweeping societal reform in how the mentally ill were dealt with, the institution was closed down, leaving it abandoned, just as a family was looking to purchase land for a haunted house.
Okay, that’s still charming, I guess, but also kinda worrisome?
The premise (wait): in New Zealand, at a year round haunted house, the performers and the owners have banded together as a weird and wacky family of misfits. The family running the place can’t even watch horror movies, and the kids and adults who scare everyone in the attractions are the lonely misfits from the rest of everyday life who have found nowhere to live and call their own. People recovering from suicide attempts, living with HIV, who had a hard time fitting in at school or work, all find a way to love and be loved.
Yeah, definitely charming, but we already have two premises and I don’t think a third—
The premise (OKAY, NO): what is the moral obligation of a haunted house to the marginalized community of the mentally ill? A former nurse and a former patient of a sanitarium in New Zealand walk through its halls in its present state as a year round haunted house, reflecting on their time there, and how the mentally ill were brutalized by society only to literally be demonized by a haunted house.
How is there a fourth premise? This one isn’t as charming, but it’s still very important. But how come there’s a fourth—
Meanwhile (what’s happening), did you know that working day in and day out at a year round haunted house in New Zealand gives you really messed up dreams? Like, so weird. Let’s re-enact them with the people who have them about each other!
… this would fit into the third premise, I guess, but—
Meanwhile (this needs to stop), did you know working day in and day out at a haunted house year round is like any other service job, but with more poop? Come hear the fun office anecdotes of a family who run a haunted house in New Zealand.
There are too many movies here. Pick two of them and one of the subplots, at most. The rest would be great footage for a DVD release, I promise you. It’s okay for this movie to be happy. It’s okay for it to be charming. Leave the question of taste for someone else to decide. Because if it hadn’t been raised, I would like these people more. TWO STARS
BONUS REVIEW: You know how it’s illegal to shout fire in a crowded theater, because it’ll cause a stampede and get people trampled and killed? Well, in the early 20th century, when we were just figuring this whole cinema thing out, that wasn’t yet the case. Still, people had code words and phrases to let each other know when something bad was happening—especially necessary, as they were using ultra flammable nitrate film.
“But what’s MR SAND about?”, I hear you ask.
Watch it and find out. That’s most of the fun. (You should definitely check it out if you like trippy DIY animation or the works of Guy Maddin.) TWO AND A HALF STARS