Grainy audio. Grainy whispers. Grainy infrared footage. Grainy logic. Enough grains to open a bourbon distillery and funnily enough, all hallmarks of the now beat-to-death horse that is the paranormal investigation doc. Millenials may recall an MTV show circa 2000 called Fear which involved contestants completing challenges in and around infamously haunted sites...
...It checked all the boxes for what we now associate with paranormal investigation programming: whispers, infrared, footsteps, ad nauseum repetition of “what was that?”, and a medium/historian to explain the significance of each locale in grisly detail.
For many of us, it was an introduction to the format and an impetus for a fascination with it. Directors Steve Gonsalves and Kendall Whelpton (both of A&E’s Ghost Hunters fame) have made careers in television toying with that fascination and have sought to expand on their forte with The House in Between. ‘Expand’ shouldn’t suggest an absence of grain or infrared, there’s still plenty of that. Worry not.
The House in Between chronicles the nearly decade-long investigation of a house in Mississippi, eloquently dubbed “The Mississippi House”. It resides in the bible-belt burg of Florence where owner Alice Jackson had it contracted and built. Alice lived in the house amid opening and closing doors, flashing lights, and mysterious physical phenomena until 2011 when a frightening nighttime disturbance finally pushed Alice to shelter elsewhere. However, optimistic, Alice maintained ownership and sought the help of investigators John Bullard and Brad Cooney.
Over the space of nearly ten years the duo conducted both joint and independent investigations, rigging the house with cameras that capture image and sound 24/7 and other devices of less clear design. With the addition of Gonsalves and Whelpton, the crew reaches out to professionals and locals alike to help eliminate logical factors and lend some local color and context to the investigation.
The House in Between is pretty on-brand with what one might come to expect from this sort of fare and some might be tempted to deride the film, asking why the scant evidential offerings even warrant a release. But it’s important to keep in mind the nature of paranormal investigative media. There’s an inherent masochism to the genre. You’re only ever going to get so much. If there were more it would be on every news program in the world by dinner time. But it’s that taste, that hint, that soupçon of possibility that really makes the format so viable yet so embittering. It keeps you in a state of perpetual attendance as evidenced by thirteen seasons of Ghost Hunters. And this outing is no different.
Still, The House in Between feels a bit like an unfinished song. Ideas and avenues of exploration are raised and then left to dry to dust in the sun. In particular suggestions of historical import which, naturally, might lend some genuinely interesting if not disturbing clarity to the goings on in Alice’s home. Of particular interest is the fact that Alice’s home was only built within the last 30 years. Whatever spirits, presence, or energy is at work isn’t in the house, but in the land itself.
On the upside, interesting angles involving science, and in particular geology, are explored to positive effect. Who knew limestone could hold a charge? What, you did? Well aren’t we smart. Even the concepts of extraterrestrial visitation and the multiverse are explored, a kitschy divergence from business as usual where paranormal investigations are concerned. But nothing is subject to a deep dive, nothing ever gets plump with intrigue, giving us the feast we deserve. The audience are mosquitos left lean and parched, the real skin of the story unbroken. If we’re not going to be watching Paranormal Activity we could at least get the History Channel treatment and walk away armchair experts.
But alas, the masochism of the format. But you’ll still watch it. That’s the kicker. Even if it’s all surface, all facile exercise in the familiar. You know you’re going to watch. Just in case. And they know it too. And so here we are, watching The House in Between together, even after you’ve read this review and said, “Hmm, well, sounds like every other ghost hunt I’ve ever watched.” You’re still going to order that pad thai and those crab rangoon and fuse with the couch for 80 minutes hoping for so much as a “Boo!”
The House In Between is now available on VOD from Gravitas Ventures.
By Paul Bauer