The follow up to the better then expected Bad Ben (read our review of that here) goes the prequel route. Choosing to focus on the family that lived in the house before it ended up for auction leading to the events of the first film. A fine idea as there certainly was a bit of mystery about it but in the end we get a half-hearted found footage horror that drops logic and sense for an abundance of scare attempts. With very few actually managing to land.
Bad Ben wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot but it was a solid found footage horror that held the attention. It had a straight-forward story that built tension and paid it off. Steelmanville Road is pretty much the opposite. It’s unashamed in how much it lacks subtly and tells its story in half-hearted fashion with a cast who…let’s just say, they struggle at times.
The movie surrounds Rachel and Matt Harris who have recently moved into the house from the first film. However, their excitement turns to terror when they realise it might be haunted.
Cue plenty of ghostly goings on and the constant appearance of some pre-teen boy in shockingly bad makeup and speaking backwards. This particular scare is easily the most overdone one of the film, which says a lot as Steelmanville Road likes to throw out a hell of a lot of scare attempts.
Forget build here; it’s moving furniture, cold rooms and bad smells to suddenly ghost kids and demonic voices. All within the first quarter of the film. The lack of subtly isn’t refreshing because there is nothing to quench the horror thirst here. Bad Ben wasn’t doing anything new and Steelmanville Road is doing even less.
Instead it seems to follow the Paranormal Activity blueprint of having its prequel tie into the first film seemlessly. However, whereas the famous franchise built cleverly towards its big ending, Steelmanville Road tries to keep a frantic pace throughout and inevitably stumbles and falls. The pacing is all over the place and it’s very difficult to not find yourself yawning constantly.
It’s not like we can look to the cast to help make this a better film as the lifeless performances do little to impress. For a married couple Jessica Partridge and Christopher Partridge have very little chemistry. Both also seem to just take the paranormal antics in their house in their stride. To the point that it’s wholeheartedly unrealistic. A real problem when the crux of found footage is realism.
We’re not talking about finding a door open or a light on, Steelmanville Road is the most haunted place on Earth. No-one would be as comfortable as the pair seem to be a lot of the time.
However, their poor acting pales in comparison to the medium who knows more then she’s letting on. She plays the role with enthusiasm but her line delivery is horrendous. She sounds like she’s reading off cue cards and her exposition dump at the finale is cringe-worthy.
Whereas Bad Ben could be enjoyable even with its flaws, there is very little to enjoy here. It’s boring, overplays its hand and ends in such a lacklustre way that it is downright frustrating.