CAMPTON MANOR Should Stay Closed

If you’ve ever wondered what the budget for those 60 second “Heritage Minutes” would look like stretched out to feature length with a fraction of the entertainment value, you need look no further than the head-scratching haunter, Campton Manor.

Set sometime in the 20th century (between old frontier saloons, mid-century rotary phones, and 1970’s cars, neither the production design nor the script are quite certain of the year), writer Teddy (Shawn Roberts) embellishes his skill for supernatural journalism with a sixth sense handed down from Haley Joel Osment. His low-key second sight attracts mysterious visitor Jack (Jason London) to his office with a pitch to visit Campton Manor, a house where dozens of partygoers died mysteriously at a New Years Eve party. They were not murdered as far as the autopsies could tell, their hearts simply stopped.

With limited period-looking locations available in this part of Ontario, the action promptly shifts to the titular manor where Teddy and Jack let themselves into the cleanest-looking abandoned house in the history of cinema. Versimilitude matters little however as the house soon bursts to life with the aforementioned NYE party, our heroes either time-travelling or experiencing the past’s echo. Gaining only half-answers from the party’s affably opaque host Lawrence (the dearly-departed Kenneth Welsh), the duo split up to investigate the impending deaths, but one of them may have a more personal connection to the tragedy than they let on. Come for the spooky party favours, stay for the final act twist that will surprise absolutely no one.

While attending Vancouver Film School in the early 2010s, I explored the work of Film Production classes from years past. These amounted to hours and hours of student films that were predictably amateurish and either went nowhere or came to predictably cliched conclusions. It became tiresome and I stopped watching once I hit the mid-1990s. Not since that time have I experienced the same feeling of a film floundering and unable to regain any semblance of narrative traction.

The story is a sixth sense-ripoff with none of the style nor the narrative drive. The plot is punched full of holes, the screenplay is stacked with pointless characters, and even the scares are barely worthy of a PG-rating. The whole production wears its low budget like a novelty pin and not even some half-decent cinematography can save it.

Shawn Roberts fits the film like a glove, but only in the sense that he comes across as a complete anachronism, utterly divorced from the drama and character bestowed to him. He has all the charisma of a body-builder cosplaying as the character and his wooden and un-confident delivery grates incessantly against any attempt at gravitas.

Jason London fares slightly better as Jack although sometimes feels like he just got fed his lines off-camera. Welsh brings the most dramatic weight to the table but for precious little gain. Genre-favourite Julian Richlings is always a welcome addition but is tragically under-utilised in a near-pointless role.

Campton Manor looks handsome at points and gives the dearly departed Welsh one last screen performance, but is hardly worth even the relatively brisk 83 minute runtime. Best to decline the invitation and stop over at the myriad of other haunted locales cinema has to offer. 


Campton Manor will be available on major VOD platforms starting March 19

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