There is then a very tense scene where Professor Laurel tries to give another chunk of narrative to the camera, but he keep losing his place in his notes. Eventually, he just decides to do a complete rewrite of this lecture. That's right, as if having people speak directly to the camera in monotone wasn't exhilarating enough, now we get to see Laurel try to speak directly to the camera in monotone and fail! Yippee! What a terrific movie!
Jennifer holds yet another seance. This time she goes back to talking to the spirits. All that crap about demons gathering numbers to begin an invasion of Earth is never mentioned again. Naturally. That's not the sort of thing you'd want to dwell on. Instead, all of the spirits are combining their power to give one of their own a physical form. Just as Jennifer relates this information, Sarah sees someone walking slowly down the hall. Jennifer seems to think this guy is here to kill them all. That's a shame, but at least at the rate he's moving, they've still got another few good years left. Jason turns the camera back to Jennifer, but it turns out the guy can move pretty fast after all. He is suddenly upon them. Of course, the first thing he does is attack the camera. Not the cameraman, just the camera. Because ghosts hate cameras. Really. I read that somewhere.
When the shitty static effect (yes, they have to use an effect to make static) fades, everyone is okay. Jennifer stopped the rampaging, camera-bashing spirit... somehow. Jason and Sarah decide that it's time to get the hell out of dodge, but they can't get out. This might have something to do with the fact that they're locked in. Laurel finds them trying to escape and goes completely nuts, screaming at both of them and slamming Sarah against a wall. Now I don't know for sure, but I'm fairly certain that violates the teacher-student relationship. At least, that's the only reason I can think of why my teachers haven't tried that one on me. Laurel then further jeopardizes his tenure by suggesting that Jennifer allow herself to be possessed by one of these spirits. Apparently this is something you can just up and do, given the proper motivation. All interactions with Laurel get stranger and stranger, and everyone is convinced he's lost it. Ron Bonk wants to make this as clear as possible, so he has a scene where Laurel tells Jason the story of a worker at the asylum who fell down a flight of stairs and died, which he thinks is hysterical. Because, see, he's crazy, so he thinks that people dying is funny, because that's what crazy people do, right? Right? Guys?
Jennifer prepares for the possession. Speaking directly into the camera for the purpose of making a documentary is a great device, because it means she can just explain what she's going to do, rather than having to convey the danger of a possession through, you know, acting. She closes her eyes for a couple seconds, then - presto! - she's possessed by the spirit of Smith, the original owner of Strawberry Estates. You can tell she's possessed because her voice has a lame echo effect, which allows you to hear her poor line delivery three times over. It's triple the annoyance! Jennifer/Smith tells Laurel that Strawberry Estates was built on the one and only doorway between the spirit world and the material world. Man, what are the odds of that? Talk about your all time real estate blunders. Jennifer starts screaming, then Sarah starts screaming to calm her, then Laurel starts screaming to get Sarah to shut up and threatens to kill her. And what does Jason do? Absolutely nothing! What a winner he is. Jennifer/Smith then tells Sarah that Jason has a girlfriend. Yep, the vengeful spirit of a man who died a century ago has been waiting around all this time just to make Sarah feel bad about sleeping with Jason. What a dick.
Sarah and Jason try to get out again, as if somehow the doors would magically be open now. Laurel, who is oddly calm now, tells them that they really can't get out, because the doors can only be opened from the outside and he lost his cell phone. Jason contemplates breaking the window in the door and trying to squeeze through, but he decides against it. I have to wonder why he doesn't just break one of the massive windows in any of the other rooms and walk right out? Oh right, there are supposed to be bars over them. I keep forgetting that. Something about all the shots of barless windows just throws me off.
Jennifer borrows Jason's second camera to record a desperate message in anticipation of something bad happening before they can leave. It's a direct precursor to "The Blair Witch Project's" infamous scene where the girl whines to the camera and snot jiggles inside her nose. Except in this one, there's no snot, and instead of just trying to record a final message to whoever finds the camera after they're all dead, Jennifer just prays to her mother's spirit to get them through this. No, I don't know why she wants to tape that. Probably because if she doesn't, there's no way for even Ron Bonk to justify a scene with her alone. Meanwhile, Jason goes to Sarah's room to apologize for being such an asshole. Of course, he does this from behind a camera, which is how all sincere apologies should be delivered. Sarah is quite sick at this point and doesn't really respond, even when he admits that the story about his parents dying was a lie to get her in the sack. That's right, he said his own mother bled to death in his arms to get a drunk girl he just met into bed with him while his girlfriend wasn't around to see him. That has to be some sort of new low for mankind as a whole. It goes: Spanish Inquisition, Bush getting elected, Holocaust, Jason lying about his parents' deaths.
We leap ahead to Sarah and Jason finding the Professor and Jennifer in the basement. Jennifer is possessed again, this time by a different spirit. You can tell, because it's a different lame vocal effect, but at least this one actually makes her line delivery sound a little better. Now, if only something could be done about the actual lines, we'd be set. She gives Laurel a cue and he leaves the room, then comes back with a pipe. Where do you think he swings first? You guessed it - right at the camera. However, in a surprise twist, he doesn't finish the camera off. Instead, he cracks Jennifer's skull (off camera), then turns to come after Sarah and Jason. They book up to the kitchen and grab a knife, then go on a frantic eight minute search for Jason's other camera. Despite being chased by an obviously crazed man who wants to kill him, Jason can't leave a camera behind, let alone drop the one he's holding. He and Sarah return to the basement with both cameras and hide in the dark. When Laurel approaches, they use the light on the second camera to temporarily blind him. Yes, they need the other camera because its light can blind full grown men for thirty seconds at a time. Sure. Why not. While Laurel is blinded, Jason dashes in and stabs him to death. Jason decides to go back upstairs to look for Laurel's phone to call for help, but Sarah insists on staying down in the basement. It makes perfect sense. Why would you want to stick together when you can stay in a dark basement with the bodies of a girl possessed by an evil ghost and a pipe-wielding madman?
Jason find the phone remarkably quickly and calls 911. He then goes back downstairs and hears Sarah calling for him. He sees that Jennifer's body is missing, then spots Sarah standing hunched over. As he gets closer to her, something hits the camera once again, and it finally breaks. Thus ends the chilling saga of the Camera That Wouldn't Die. Muhuhahahahahaha!
"Strawberry Estates" drags on for an hour and forty minutes, about an hour and a half of which consists of people looking directly at the camera and talking. Unfortunately, the first-time actors that Ron Bonk managed to con into doing this movie can't even get that right. I've seen middle school variety shows with better presentation. Not talent shows - variety shows. It's that bad. And for all the endless development and development of the house's back story, there's no reason to think that Smith or any other spirit actually related to the house has anything to do with the final scene. Judging by the awful vocal effect over Jennifer's voice, it's an entirely new spirit at work. Even if it was still Smith, it wouldn't matter. Ron Bonk introduces new elements to the story of Strawberry Estates at will whenever he feels it would increase the tension that he fails to create in the first place. There are so many parallel scenes between this movie and "The Blair Witch Project" that it's hard to say "The Blair Witch" didn't rip "Strawberry Estates" off at least a little. But is it ripping something off if you do it exponentially better? No, I think "Strawberry Estates" just inspired the "Blair Witch" team to suck as little as possible. As for poor Ron Bonk, I somehow doubt he'll go down in the annals of film history as the man who gave birth to the faux-real horror genre, but then, with a name like Ron Bonk, I can't imagine he really thought he was going to get that far anyway.
|Special Effects:||- 6|
|Music / Sound:||- 6|