Slow-burn horror a tad heavy on the slow

DIRECTOR: Andrew Spencer

CAST: Ian Brooker, Peter Wight, Louise Paris

PLOT: Paranormal investigator finds more than he bargained for

2 Knives1/2

THE CASEBOOK OF EDDIE BREWER starts out slow and keeps going that way. But it’s not without merit. It’s not a brain numb snooze fest. It’s success, in a way, is also its flaw, its mole on a pretty face. EDDIE BREWER sets out to recreate the feel of a television documentary about paranormal phenomena, though it does mix traditional cinematic visual narrative with the copious faux documentary footage.

Due to its success in accomplishing this feat, the film comes off as too dry at time, at least for my tastes. But I must fend off hypocrisy and employ an argument I’ve wielded in favor of films I liked that others might have found too dull. Only this time I’ll be offering Devil’s Advocacy against myself.

What I mean to say is that while I find THE CASEBOOK OF EDDIE BREWER to be more arid than even I like, it is in all fairness putting to use the slow burn method (see Sinister, the Insidious films, and any number of good found footage movies – an unfairly abused genre, in my opinion). And while the burn is slow, the heat does eventually start to turn up.

In a way, the viewer-shifting-in-his-seat slowness offers up contrast to the deliberately building tension that does indeed eventually creep in from the sides. It’s a descent from normal – really public-televisiony interviews and paranormal investigator footage, plus the equally low-key non-“doc” straight storytelling sequences. From normal, the movie’s characters and, by extension, the viewer, are slowly drowned in the paranormal.

The agnostic, skeptic but scientifically open-minded investigator at the core of the EDDIE BREWER begins as a cool cat, an academic with calm and composure. When his serenity begins to crumble is about the time we start to get nervous too.

We’ve waited a while, thought about turning it off and watching old episodes of “Newhart” instead but kept on going anyway, checked our watches (only once or twice) – but now we’re getting somewhere.

The initial semi-glacial pacing and utterly downtuned mood – almost patina-less in a way, even the grit lacks gritty atmosphere (at first) – feels, after a while, to be a necessary evil. A muted tone becomes the stage for quiet but unsettling fear, and sometimes genuine shock. It’ll give you a start.

The very limbo-low-key approach I found onerous at first becomes a space of fear, in which reality rearranges itself. Plain and subtle becomes subtle fear, and somehow emptiness becomes ominousness.

At first, I really was scratching my head about the lauds and laurels a critic or two has heaped upon the film, but I see that their patience paid off, as did mine. This is one of those movies in which I feel the knive rating start low – or in this case, fair-to-middlin’ – and then shift up a notch or two.

I still maintain it’s flawed film but that my be my ADD impatience talking. Oddly, for someone such as myself with an at-times sketchy attention span, I really appreciate found footage and slow burn horror.

What starts dull becomes dire.

THE CASEBOOK OF EDDIE BREWER is an evolution. And the film’s gradual change reflects the same in the investigator’s character arc. The ho-hum demeanor of a man who has found more normal than paranormal explanations for the phenomena he has investigated (including one in which the mysterious manifestations turned out to be pot farmers) goes south when he stumbles onto otherworldly events so, well, real, that he has no choice but to keep plugging along, doing what he does, all the while coping with stark terror born in a devastating paradigm shift.

Be careful what you seek, because you just might find it. The proof of paranormal reality this investigator has sought forever and a day has finally arrived. And he doesn’t like it one damn bit.

While it never entirely shakes off its lethargy, THE CASEBOOK OF EDDIE BREWER does end up being a suspenseful and enjoyable experience, one worth the patience.


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