A lot of folks roll their eyes at another found footage horror film, but I think that’s because there’s been a glut of them in recent memory. It’s not a new concept and a lot of times, in this day and age of first person shooter games and reality television, it seems to be yet another way for the audience to become that much closer to the film. In horror, it’s uncomfortable to get in this proximity to a horror film because it’s likely to pull you in close, then yell in your ear or show you something startling. Yet, I love this feeling and I’m sure those of you who read this column feel the same way about being scared. I’m not going to say that 8213: GACY HOUSE is a standout in this subgenre of found footage horrors, but it is worth a scare or two and since this column is dedicated to haunted houses, I figured if I was going to focus on a found footage film, I might as well focus on one we all haven’t seen.
I must admit, I am a sucker for GHOST HUNTERS. I love the show and have been an avid fan for years. I know most of the time, they are chasing shadows and the episodes are cut to amp up tension that most of time isn’t there. But for some reason, when the Ghost Hunters are there Scooby-ing around in the night vision filter and stop to listen to a sound they may or may not have heard, I’m riveted. Sue me. It gets to me. 8213: GACY HOUSE follows a team of fictional ghost hunters as they wander around a house once owned by infamous child molester and murderer John Wayne Gacy. Now, I acknowledge the inappropriateness of centering a fictional story on a real life murderer. It’s pretty tasteless and I’m sure there are relatives of Gacy’s victims that would probably take offense to the tale, but as a film, I kind of liked this one. Up to a point, 8213: GACY HOUSE hit all the right notes, giving the audience a slow build through the first hour of the film with just enough of the paranormal to entice the hunters deeper into the house.
To its credit, 8213: GACY HOUSE does go full on with the found footage motif. There are no credits at the beginning or end, just a disclaimer stating that John Wayne Gacy was a killer, then giving the history of the owners of his house, and finally stating that six bodies were found in the house along with this footage. The DVD views as if you did just happen upon this film pieced together from multiple hand held and stationed cameras set up by the team. The team is made up of some likable characters: the noble leader, the wizened professor, the antsy cameraman, the flighty psychic, the hot assistant (actually two of them), and a snarky cameraman who’s just in it for the money. The actors are able to pull this off as if they were just regular people and not actors, going unscripted and reacting the way most would if thrown into this situation.
The problem with all found footage films is justifying why the characters would continue filming when everything starts going to hell. I don’t know what I would do in such a situation, but my dedication to documenting these bizarre events would go out the window when the ghost or the cannibal or big monster or whatever starts attacking. In the case of 8213: GACY HOUSE, of course, even after people start disappearing and the cameraman is lifted in the air, the hand held camera is utilized. Not sure why because with a bit of creative camerawork and writing the stationary cams the team put up in the story could have told the rest of the story. Up until all hellz breaks loose, though, 8213: GACY keeps it together with some good moments of suspense.
Director Anthony Fankhauser does have a creepy movie here with enough single moments of creep that turned out to be pretty effective. Shots of a portly ghost running toward the camera in infrared, a cameraman who has his pants torn down which sounds kind of funny but is played as more of a horrific molestation, and the endless black of the crawlspace underneath the house all factor in to making 8213: GACY HOUSE one of the more effective found footage horror films that fully embrace that feeling you get when you’re walking around your house at night in search of a sound that may have been the foundation shifting or may have been something more sinister.