• Sanatorium

    Released By: Lionsgate
    Released On: December 23, 2014.
    Director: Brant Sersen
    Cast: Tim Martin, Don Fanelli, Charlie Fersko
    Year: 2013
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    The Film:

    It may be the fault of The Blair Witch Project. Or it may have something to do with the Paranormal Activity films. Or maybe it's the rash of "Ghost Hunter" shows on TV. Maybe it's all of the above. But at some point, "found footage" films started to get wildly popular. And while there are definitely some decent ones out there, the problem with this genre is that they're so easily and cheaply made, there are bound to be a ton of lousy ones.

    Sanatorium definitely leans toward the ghost hunter show influence; as a matter of fact, the main group of protagonists in the film (their names aren't really that important) are the creators of a wildly popular ghost show on TV. For their 100th episode, they'll have to have something fancy, and they find that fancy in the form of Hillcrest Sanitorium, an (of course) abandoned hospital that was the site of some pretty gruesome stuff.

    Never mind that a bunch of patients died of horrible diseases, or that the hospital was turned into a nursing facility in the 70's and was host to a number of deaths by natural causes; the ratings seller here is murder, and the crew are heading there for one sensational murder in particular. Richard Howell, an inmate of the hospital back in the 50's went batshit insane and murdered three kids. In the hospital. And then hung himself. In the hospital. With so much anguish, it's got to be home to some serious paranormal activity, especially since the group are going there on the anniversary of the tragedy.

    Arriving at Hillcrest, they spend some time doing some recon work and establishing shots. It's here that the first indications of weirdness start happening; a child is seen at the window (though a playback of the tape doesn't really reveal that to the viewer), and there is a seriously noticeable drop in temperature in some of the rooms. Convinced that they're going to get some great material, the team begin setting up the usual hallmarks of such shows; EMP meters, motion detectors, tape recorders, and cameras. As the sun goes down and the moon comes up, the crew slowly realize that they may have gotten in way over their heads, and that it's going to be a miracle if they make it out of Hillcrest alive.

    To get it out of the way, let me say that Sanatorium is not a good film. The cast are about as plain as they come. They don't have any traits that help to discern one from another, save for the fact that some are girls, some are boys, one is pregnant, and one is Black. They're completely interchangeable and unidentifiable throughout the movie, and not one of them has any quality that puts them in touch with the viewer. Well, unless you care that the pregnant girl might get killed, because she's pregnant. I didn't.

    Cast aside, the low-budget laziness on display could be forgiven if the film were original or unique. It's not. If you've seen Ghost Hunters or any other show where a bunch of "investigators" hole up inside a creepy location with night vision cameras, you've seen Sanatorium. They spend five minutes playing and rewinding tape to follow an orb with the night vision camera. They walk around talking, they run around yelling. Introducing the element of danger doesn't help...nobody cares about the cast. At least there are jump scares, right? To be fair, the film does have a couple of semi-creepy moments. But they're few and far between, making Sanatorium a real chore to sit through. And, it doesn't help that the crew of a highly successful show dealing with the paranormal, with 99 previous episodes under their belt, refer to "Night Vision" as "Infrared". But that might be picking. At least.....at least the location is interesting. And that's about it.


    Lionsgate brings Sanatorium to DVD in their After Dark Originals series in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer that looks pretty good considering the source material. There's a bit of compression here and there and some of the dark scenes suffer as a result of the handycam footage, but that's to be expected in such a film. Overall, the detail is good and the picture is clean.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is a bit of a mixed bag, again largely due to the source material. The dialogue and sound effects aren't really consistent, but again, to be expected in a "found footage" film. There's not too much action to be found in the surround, nor should there be...it's found footage.

    A Lionsgate promo reel is also included.

    The Final Word:

    Sanatorium is not a good film. It is not worth seeing, nor worth owning. If, however, you are required to see the film, or have an interest in it, this DVD presents the film well.