Tuesday, October 18, 2016

#2,225. The Linda Vista Project (2015)

Directed By: JJ Rogers

Starring: Whitney Anderson, Yeniffer Behrens, Mauricio Mendoza

Tag line: "Your bed is ready"

Trivia: JJ Rogers and his wife investigated the hospital as the Rated-P Team for several years before JJ wrote the story outline

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 suddenly 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, where 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 if 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), 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 paranormal investigator 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.

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