Thoughts on “Haunted Hospital” (Heilstatten)

When I came across this one, I wondered if I had seen it before. Specifically, I wondered if it was “Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum”, as the two movies have an almost identical premise: a group of people who are known for online reality TV decide to go to a haunted hospital or asylum to film the ghosts and, well, bad things happen to them. While Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum followed the standard Asian practice of confusing people in an attempt to confuse them, Haunted Hospital is just confusing, mostly because I’m not sure it knows what it wants to be itself.

The first thing I should talk about, though, is that the movie is originally German, and the default setting is for German voices with English subtitles. I have an issue with subtitles, since I have a strong tendency to read everything all the time, and so I spend most of my time with subtitled movies reading the subtitles and not watching what’s happening on-screen, which can hurt my appreciation of movies. I found out later — while looking to see how long the movie was, about half-way through — that I could have set it to have English voices, but I don’t think that the subtitles impacted my enjoyment of the movie. And if I was checking the DVD case half-way through the movie, that’s probably a pretty good indication of how much I was actually enjoying the movie.

The main problem with the movie, as outlined above, is that it builds up a lot of possible threads but doesn’t commit to any of them. While I tend to complain about developing the doomed characters since we don’t really need to take the time to do that to make us feel bad for them if they get tortured and killed horribly, this movie really needed to focus more on the characters and their relationships. The first reason is that the movie doesn’t actually build itself around hurting or even scaring them that much. Two characters die before the endgame of the movie, one of which seems to be due to an accident. The second, and biggest reason, is that the ending itself is built around the relationships between the characters. At the end, one character is revealed as having set all of this up to get revenge on the popular vloggers for sacrificing their principles to get views. And one of those characters is someone that he had had a channel with who left to go to the other one to get more hits, doing, well, utter crappy pranks that don’t say anything but, well, get views. At the same time, the other big vlogger is having a secret relationship with the guy who was the murderer’s partner despite them acting as huge rivals, which is what was the main draw for this competition. The other main character of interest is a woman who has a rather small channel dedicated to facing fears, who used to date the murderer, and goes along to try to reconnect, but he thinks that she’s just trying to get views for her own channel. Oh, and she and her sister and the murderer came to the hospital once before and her sister was injured, and so we can presume that she was the woman in the wheelchair we see at the beginning of the movie. Confused? Well, you still will be after watching this episode of “Soap” movie, because none of that actually really matters much to the movie itself. The murderer brings it up in his reveal and makes some references to it in his rants, but we never see the three vloggers killed, and the minor vlogger doesn’t escape because of that relationship or anything that happened the first time around, but just because she climbs out of a hole that the murderer didn’t think anyone could climb out of (Why? No one mentioned in the movie was in a position to try) and tricks him with his own trap to escape. He ends up killing himself at the end at the instigation of his girlfriend that we may or may not have seen earlier in the movie.

However, this all, of course, suggests a mundane explanation for everything, which is fine. They, however, hint very strongly at the supernatural elements, but that wouldn’t be a problem if that simply built up that red herring so that we can have the rug pulled out from under us later. But it focuses a lot on the details of the supernatural story — like trying to figure out what it means to help her — that never pay off later, even in the mundane plot. That wouldn’t be terrible, but then the movie after pulling the supernatural rug out from under us … puts it back right at the very end. See, his girlfriend, as she’s editing the last of the movie that the murderer was making together, gets the supernatural eyes of the purported woman who was killed horribly there and eats a moth that was a common motif of the supernatural events. So, that spirit or whatever ultimately was responsible for his actions. That actually makes a lot of sense, actually … except that the movie never reveals what her motive was. Why was she doing this? Why did she let the one woman go? What did helping her mean? None of these questions are answered, but the ending makes them the important part of the movie because the supernatural element at the end trumps the mundane one that we had some answers for. This overturns a lot of what happened before and still leaves a lot of threads around that are never pulled.

All of this, ultimately, leads to a movie that wasn’t very entertaining. The character and supernatural elements drag at times and are never paid off to make it all worthwhile. Even those elements tend to be somewhat scattershot, with small references to them without any indication of their actual significance. If they were focused more on, we’d pay more attention to them, but as small references they are easy to ignore. There are some scares in the movie, but it ultimately isn’t even that scary. The documentary elements are dull, the character relationships underdeveloped, the supernatural elements underdeveloped, the ending is disappointing, and the scares are mediocre. This is not a movie that I could imagine watching again.

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