Bad Ben is an interesting exercise in single-person film-making. Is it good? Not really. But the Nigel Bach has clearly stretched his legs, learning his craft, while having a blast making it. Clearly inspired by Paranomal Activity and the stampede of me-too-films that followed it, Bach made this film on a shoestring, writing, directing, producing, and starring as the film’s sole actor. You’ve heard this story before; the protagonist has purchased a home of unknown provenance, and laden with dreams of money made flipping the home, he instead finds it burdened with an evil force bent on evicting him from the property.
The movie is filmed solely from the perspective of the single character’s iPhone and an array of “security cameras” that record to the cloud for a period of exactly one week. We know this, as the film dictates it directly to the viewer, through an odd, one-sided phone conversation with his camera service provider; it’s a frustrating call to Comcast Customer Service, and it made the final cut. It’s scenes like this that destroy all immersion in the story, underscoring the fact that there is one guy making this film.
This one guy persists in filming and narrating as though documenting for an unseen audience. The lines are stilted, odd, and laden with profanity. Who talks to himself this consistently, and with this sort of language? If he’s not uploading this footage to YouTube daily, this is an exercise built on the horribly futility of loneliness. It makes the character one-dimensional in his anger, utterly unlikable, and difficult to connect with. Again, it takes you right out of the film.
Seasoned viewers know what to expect. Late night footage of moving furniture, shadows projected on walls, lights turning off and on, “occult items” created from household objects, doors (so, so many doors) opening of their own accord. Our hero does little to get to the bottom of the actual mystery until the end, and he blithely continues living in the house, despite being confronted by actual physical evidence of an unseen force. And he clearly believes that the unseen force is real and paranormal.
I won’t spoil the ending, because I don’t need to. The payoff is exactly what you’d expect, and one that you’ve seen time and time before.
Overall, Bad Ben is worth watching simply to see how far one man can go on a budget of $300.00 (the actual figure reported). It’s not good cinema, it’s not original cinema, but its competent novice film-making. It suffers from horrible monologues and special effects of such garden-variety implementation that you’ll find yourself laughing out loud. Still, props to Nigel Bach for sticking with the project to its culmination; he should be proud.
That’s the review. Here’s a stream-of-consciousness commentary, taken while watching the film. Obviously, spoilers ahead.
The main…and only…character’s slow speech and habit of speaking to himself are really distracting. Additionally, his lines are spoken to the unseen audience, not something someone would do unless they’re making a movie.
The house, despite clearly being contemporary and of some considerable cost, is furnished in the most haphazard fashion imaginable. $5 lamps from Walmart? Check. Particleboard desk from a big-box store? Check. Ship’s wheel on the bedroom floor…wait, what?…a ship’s wheel? Check. Seriously, who can buy a house like this and fills it with dorm room furnishings? (Obviously, the writer/producer/star, who reportedly made the film on a budget of $300, does.)
There is never a feeling of dread or impending disaster. This guy has a new house assaulted by the ghost of a teenage vandal. Why would anything worse be in such a contemporary home?
Special effects are clearly human shadows projected on the walls.
Why would a spirit/ghost/demon turn on lights as it moved from room to room?
Fun fact: spirits use doors.
Everything isn’t something to swear about. You have a free lawnmower that probably has a dead battery. (“If this thing starts, that’s another four or five hundred bucks!”) Are you at the mercy of the god of twelve-volt batteries?
Bloody baby clothes…a grave in the backyard…a chest full of kitchen knives. Arbitrarily throw away everything of religious significance and meaning…oh yeah, this is going nowhere fast.
“I’m not scared, I’m a Christian. You can’t hurt me.” Hahahahahaha
Special effects can’t be so obvious. The furniture moves toward the doorway because that’s the only way to keep the lines dragging the chair hidden.
“Are you Ben’s toy?” Music box starts playing. This is presented to the viewer arbitrarily; how does he know any of this?
Gooooogle-ing. Can you say it any weirder?
Who finds out that a couple were murdered in a home–a home that you’re currently living in–and does not ask where and how? “Hey, that’s cool, I’ll just keep sleeping in the bed.”
Voodoo dolls. Check. Funerary urn. Check. Pentagram over a shattered crucifix. Check.
This should be called Brian Posehn Lookalike Haunting.
Okay…if this is a ghost baby, how does it understand adult language constructs? And voodoo?
You can see the cord tied around the opening doorknob.
Now I’m starting to think the prior owners were into the occult and did horrible things, like sacrificed their child or something.
“I thought I cleaned everything out from up here.” He says to an attic full of boxes and crap and an unseen smell.
By all means, bag up the occult artifacts and leave them in the living room floor.
Photoshop blend effects to the rescue!
Time to threaten the spirits! That’ll end well.
Night-vision acheived with green light bulbs. You can see it in the night-vision mode of the cameras. They don’t do “part-night vision” with regular light mixed in.
I’ve been beaten up in the middle of the night by unseen forces, yet I have the presence of mind to setup a selfie stick to get the footage of my cleanup on my iPhone.
Continuity error. Sheets were balled up, then spread out again in the bedroom.
He’s already dug out the shallow grave once, how is burying the occult artifacts in the same grave again going to help?
I just noticed, we haven’t been in the garage even once. Staging area?
Candles are de-rigeur for every anti-satanic ritual. Duh.
That’s done. Back to sleep after the midnight ritual.
For a flipper of a short-sale with his “life-savings” tied up in a house, he sure does a lot of nothing for a week.
You can hear the neighbor’s lawnmower. They’ve been really good about not saying anything about the house and it’s “occupant.”
Why is there a landline telephone on the front porch?
Continuity error. His minivan just showed up, despite many exterior shots of the house.
Oh, it’s all-quiet, now. Still haven’t gotten in that “forbidden basement door,” however.
Knife stuck in the voodoo dolls. Seems like a good time to open that door.
Hey! It’s a cage-room for someone’s family secret! Chain, bloody handprints.
At this point, my Roku started loading, pausing the film. It took a good minute for me to realize it was actually my device and not a part of the film.
The payoff was pretty much to be expected. And the video system stops at exactly one week. Perfect.