Monday, 5 December 2016

Movie Review: Sir Noface (2016)



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Yet another notch on the belt of extremely surreal indie releases, this is also another example of me finding a film by pure chance via Facebook… and even considering the recent Vaxxed debacle, this is the one I was genuinely worried about. The reasons for that should be fairly obvious as soon as I specify its genre: Ghost hunting documentary. I’ve seen the ruckus caused in the comments section when someone dares say that most media involving people trying to investigate the supernatural can be incredibly silly, and I certainly don’t wish to get involved in that any more than I have to. But, seeing as how I’ve never made it a point of abandoning any semblance of a filter when it comes to what I write, I’m not exactly going to let that stop me where hundreds of others failed. This is Sir Noface.

The plot (such as it is): Chad Calek, while on a publicity tour for his previous documentary A Blood Red Sky, got in contact with the West Sydney Paranormal Research team led by Craig Powell. W.S.P.R., after being contacted by the government to look into possible supernatural presences on Cockatoo Island, apparently captured footage of a full-bodied apparition, nicknamed ‘Sir Noface’ by the team. Chad then did his own investigating, looking into the backgrounds of the team as well as the footage they took, to make sure that this footage is genuine.

For those not in the know, Chad Calek has a rather prominent history within the realm of popular(?) media about paranormal investigating. Specifically, in connection to the show Paranormal State, one of the most widely debunked pieces of faux-reality television in recent history, in which he starred and also directed. To say this doesn’t set up the best first impression is a severe understatement, but it seems like Chad himself is aware of it. Hell, even though he was involved in Ryan Buell’s font of crazy, there were moments of him on-camera in the show where he genuinely wanted nothing to do with it. Then again, most sane people will leave the room when you suggest taping halved ping-pong balls to your eyes in order to sense ghosts. Whether by his own nature or from his past experiences (he speaks of being burned and lied to in the past in this film), he is a surprisingly sceptical person. As such, he depicts himself within the film as an inquisitive person who wants to make absolutely sure of the facts before reporting them. In short, exactly the kind of person you want to make a documentary like this.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem able to keep that consistent a focus on the idea of the hauntings of Cockatoo Island. If anything, at least for the first hour, this can feel more like a travelogue than anything to do with ghosts. Chad’s connection and fascination with Australia itself plays a lot into what gets shown, with shots and details about the kind of topics that apparently those who have never really been to Australia before. There’s a whole scene dedicated to the crew talking about and tasting Vegemite, and another detailing the haka. Now, there is a bit of an explanation when it comes to why a very New Zealand tradition is being discussed in relation to Australia, as Powell has Maori heritage, but all the same, it makes for the furthest tangent in a film chock-full of them. I’d usually chalk this up to them just running short on time and needing more footage to pad out the film, but this is nearly two hours long as is; this much meandering really isn’t necessary.

When Chad actually focuses on the topic of ghosts and the titular presence, the film actually turns out far better than I ever could have expected. I said before that Chad comes across as rather intellectually curious and that's primarily through his actions. In fact, knowing what else this guy has lent his name to, this takes a far more intelligent and questioning approach to the idea than I’m used to seeing in this type of media. When Chad is shown the footage, he may come across as someone who just wants to believe that it’s real… but that doesn’t mean that he will just accept it at face value. He interviews W.S.P.R. to get their own perspectives on the thing, and get more of a grip on Powell’s personality and how likely he is to lie about this, sees them try to recreate the footage themselves and even brings in a friend of his that works in CGI to go over the footage and determine if it was fabricated. What’s more, what he ends up uncovering actually brings some genuine scepticism into the proceedings. Sure, it may be rather innocuous, but it helps create a decent precedent to fuel some drama.

Unfortunately, there is one pretty big glaring issue that seriously holds this film back. There is ultimately very little footage featuring the ghost, which means that what little they have ends up being played and replayed over and over again. However, as annoying and occasionally laughter-inducing as it can get, that isn’t the problem. The grainy camera quality of the footage that shows the ghost results in Powell’s face in the recreation being about as faceless as the supposed ghost. But even that isn’t the real problem. The problem is that, in all the investigating, they never, not once, consider the possibility that it was faked with something other than a computer. They reasonably enough rule out CGI fakery, which even little old untrained me could have told you, and they apparently rule out it being just another person, but not once do they mention prosthetics or makeup or any other kind of practical effect that could have resulted in that figure. Now, I’m not going to make any statements concerning the footage’s facticity on its own; arguments like that are too easy. Instead, I want to bring up how, for a film that for the most part took the high road, it just ignores a pretty major aspect of the investigation. As a result, Chad and co. come across as either dishonest and intentionally leaving out the biggest argument against them, or just too stupid to consider it. It’s rare that I will hope that a person is simply an idiot rather than a liar.

All in all, while certainly a lot better than I ever could have hoped for, that doesn’t quite make up for that one serious avenue of discussion that ends up overshadowing the rest of the film. Its approach to the supernatural is definitely precise in terms of what the work calls for (when it bothers focusing on it) and it takes a generally impartial view of the people involved, but goddamn, it is incredibly annoying how much time they waste on whether or not it’s done by CGI instead of practically. I don’t advise you to believe these could be camera tricks; all I’m saying is to ask questions, amateurs. It’s better than Keeping Up With The Joneses, as this shows a lot more effort put into delivering its core idea as best as possible (for the most part). However, simply because this has that lingering question that continues to annoy during the film’s running time, it falls short of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, where the feeling of missed opportunities isn’t nearly as strong or as distracting.

2 comments:

  1. they are playing this in Ponte Vedra i believe today , which is only 45 mins away but I feel 30.oo is way to much to pay ...and yes the whole sum of circumstances makes me very suspicious .. him being so close to Ryan.. the fee to see it.. and the fact you have to go somewhere to view it as well..if they were really genuine why not have it online for free...

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  2. Thanks because I am very skeptical of this because of the show Paranormal State

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