[PANIC FEST] MALIBU HORROR STORY Review - Found Footage and a Paranormal Terror-Filled Adventure

Sarah Kirk calls Malibu Horror Story a terrifying watch and a culmination of disturbing scenes ready to thrillingly upset any horror fan.


Dylan Sprayberry and Rebecca Forsythe as Josh Davidson and Jessica in Scott Sloane's MALIBU HORROR S TORY screened at Panic Fest 2022.
Courtesy of Oak Sky Films

Don’t mess with the burial grounds of indigenous people; consequences will ensue. While it’s a tired trope, this film strives to do it justice. MALIBU HORROR STORY (2021) is a horror, thriller, and paranormal terror-filled adventure. Writer and director Scott Sloane captivates audiences through extraordinary cinematography and utilizes standard but enthralling horror motifs. The film has received well deserved praise, including awards at several festivals: Best Horror Feature at Atlanta Horror Film Festival, Scariest Film at HorrorFest International, and Best Feature Film at Spooky Empire. This film is frightening, disturbing, and psychologically stimulating, all the marks of an excellent horror film.


A documentary crew of paranormal investigators filming “Paranormal Files” investigates the disappearance of four missing teenage boys from Malibu played by Hector Gomez Jr., Tommy Cramer, Veno Miller, and Jacob Hughes. They disappear on a hiking trip in the mountains of Malibu, California, after discovering a sacred cave where indigenous native settlers performed rituals. The Paranormal Files team, Jessica (Rebecca Forsythe), Ashley (Valentina De Angelis), Matt (Robert Bailey Jr.), and Josh (Dylan Sprayberry), uncover a terrifying discovery leading them to believe that the boys were victims of the supernatural.


The film opens with the Paranormal Files team using a spirit box to conduct an EVP session. Jessica, the Editor, pulls Josh aside to show him the footage she’s edited so far for the show. The film cuts to the documentary with clips of breaking news of the boys' disappearance, community reactions, historical images, and information about the land they went missing on. Recovered video footage of the boys was located by the police from the day they went missing, documenting their trip to the Torrence family property, where the mysterious cave sits. The trip goes downhill when Carlos (Hector Gomez Jr.) eats too many shroom muffins. A video shows their descent into unknown territory and the terrifying supernatural encounters the boys experience. Jessica recovers more footage from the 12-year-old video file from the night the boys went missing, and what she finds is beyond belief. There are traumatizing horror-infused moments reminiscent of The Exorcist (1973) where you can't look away from the screen despite wanting to. It’s thrilling and something for fans of gore.


Heather Rae El Moussa as Jessica fights for survival against a malevolent entity in Scott Sloane's MALIBU HORROR S TORY screened at Panic Fest 2022.
Courtesy of Oak Sky Films

Most of the film is like an episode of Ghost Hunters (2004) with different segments, research, interviews, and team footage. The team’s early efforts to contact spirits within the cave, followed by watching the Paranormal Files episode and the missing footage segment, were a fascinating, suspenseful set-up. In the Paranormal Files editing showcase, images of the campsite location, investigation papers, and historical photos of Native American culture mirrored a true-crime documentary presentation style, which I enjoyed.


Robert Morris’ impressive cinematography enhances the film’s morbid appeal. Disorienting camera shots, mixing found-footage point-of-view and cowboy shots effortlessly, adds foreboding tension to the boys' horrific experiences as they unknowingly walk into danger. Moments of camera static occur as if the electronics are shorting out. The audience knows as much as the characters, heightening the scares. The most impressive camera shot in the film is the dolly shot, which adds depth to the scenes. The camera focuses on the spirit box as something malevolent makes contact with the team. Reaction shots of the characters' fear contributed to my overall immersion, culminating in a satisfying watch.


Malibu Horror Story is the ideal amalgamation of true crime, horror, and the paranormal wrapped in a found footage bow. It has jump scares, funny moments, and at times you’ll question what you’ve just seen. The cinematography and overall delivery of the film were sensational. The dedication of the cast and crew is evident. I was captivated from beginning to end. This film is perfect for audiences who share a niche interest in morbid stories, paranormal activity, and folklore. It's a culmination of disturbing scenes ready to thirllingly upset any horror fan.


 



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