Author and ghost hunter, Phillip Muirhouse set out to make a documentary about one of the most haunted homes in Australia, the Monte Cristo, to coincide with the release of his new book. It was suppose to be a typical paranormal investigation but after finding himself in the home all alone, Phillip proceeds on with the investigation. The next day, Phillip was found by police wandering the side of a road, bloody and incoherent. "Muirhouse" recounts the events that happened to Phillip that night.
"Muirhouse" is the feature film debut of Australian filmmaker Tanzeal Rahim and is another installment in the found-footage/mockumentary sub-genre. We've covered quite a few of those here and even composed a 'Best of' list (Mockumentaries: The Good, The Bad and The Honorables) where two other Australian movies made it to the top. Suffice to say though the popularity of this type of movie, I think, has left everyone wary of them because when they're bad they are downright awful. Even I was hesitant with "Muirhouse" but it was better and more enjoyable than I was expecting since the movie was done in a much more simplistic manner.
In 2007, acclaimed author and veteran ghost hunter Phillip Muirhouse was set to investigate the 'Monte Cristo' -- one of Australia's most haunted locations -- as a publicity tactic for his latest book being released. While he was suppose to investigate the home with a team, Phillip was left in the house alone over night and was found the next day wandering on the side of a road. "Muirhouse" is a collection of the footage that was caught by Phillip and of what happened to him that night.
It seems that these found-footage movies are trying to go bigger and bigger with each one. "The Dinosaur Project" had dinosaurs (shocker), "Episode 50" had the gates of hell and even the "Paranormal Activity" films have gone in a completely ludicrous direction with their endings from them simply trying outdo their previous installments. What I enjoyed most about "Muirhouse" is it approached its story in a very minimalist fashion. Surprisingly, and thankfully, there weren't disembodied spirits or ghoulish faces showing up every few minutes for a cheap jump scare like so many do these days. "Muirhouse" seems more interested in dwelling in the silence and darkness, tormenting the audience with anticipation.
"Muirhouse" plays out how you would imagine an actual haunting would be: noises and unexplainable occurrences. With that being said, undoubtedly people will find the movie to be dull because there are few physical manifestations shown on camera and nothing starts to occur until you're about 45 minutes into the movie. I could understand why some people would find the movie boring, but again, it is nice to see movies go back to a much more basic and simplistic style. Something that actually works the best for found-footage movies. After all, everyone seems to agree that it's what you don't see that's far scarier and "Muirhouse" does just enough to allow the audience to scare themselves.
One of the other things that I think aids the movie is that it exploits a real world location. It's a movie about a real house and is based on real stories from those who have experienced the 'Monte Cristo'. Perhaps it's not as effective for those of use who do not reside in Australia but I think it helps in making the location effective as well as the overall atmosphere of the movie. Far more effective than the "based on a true story" gimmick or the usual "all that was found was their footage". If you allow yourself to let go, something like "Muirhouse" can become believable. To an extent anyway -- the ending was too over-the-top for my liking.
"Muirhouse" isn't an extraordinary found-footage movie as it is still fairly basic within its sub-genre and whether or not that's good or bad depends on how much you enjoy these types of movies. With that said though, "Muirhouse" did a few things right and I found myself enjoying it more than I was expecting. It's subtle and minimalist approach to the supernatural activity was a smart choice by Tanzeal Rahim that allowed the movie to be more creepy and seem more believable. Also, its use of the 'Monte Cristo' as it actually is and using the experiences from people who've actually been in the home made "Muirhouse" more interesting and put it a step above some of its sub-genre peers. It's not a movie I'd recommend to those who don't enjoy found-footage movies because overall it is basic in nature but if you do enjoy these kind of movies, then it might be worth checking out.