Documentary Review: DEMON HOUSE (2018)

Hi again, ghosts and ghouls! I’m back again, but this time with a documentary review instead of a film review.

Over the last few years, podcasts and documentaries about murders and true crime have become explosively popular, but it’s not so much the norm to see a decently made documentary about the paranormal. Plenty have been made in the past, there are handfuls of television shows about peoples’ experiences with hauntings, but they typically lack in quality and the acting/reenactments are not always the best.

As someone who is absolutely obsessed with the paranormal, I try to soak up every inkling of a decent paranormal investigation that I can. I have found over the years that two shows always stuck in my mind more than all of the others- it started with “Ghost Hunters” when I was in middle school (I wore my TAPS sweatshirt proudly whenever I could), and since I got older, “Ghost Adventures”.

I remember watching “Ghost Adventures” for the first time with my fiance, we were looking for something spooky but fun and landed on the show by accident. It turned into many binge-watching sessions, lots of paranoia that my house was haunted, and it ignited a passion for the paranormal in me so great that I actually started doing my own investigations using pieces of the same equipment that they use on the show. Yes, I have a PSB7 spirit box for EVP sessions, and it is wonderful.

Watching the show, I always acknowledged that Zak Bagans, leader of the “Ghost Adventures” Crew, was a bit much. His larger-than-life personality bothered me at first; I found him irresponsible for provoking spirits just to get a better episode of the show on many occasions, and I often wondered why he was insistent on wearing shirts that don’t fit his biceps. However, his personality was always captivating, and he was always the most fun paranormal investigator I’ve ever watched. When I found out he was opening a haunted museum in Las Vegas, I knew I had to eventually go and see all of the intense relics I was so passionate about.

Well, it turns out that my opportunity arose sooner than I thought, and with perfect timing. My in-laws and I went to Las Vegas, coincidentally at the same time that the museum was opening. It was entirely unplanned, yes I cried when I found out…and then the shooting happened. I was on the Las Vegas strip as it was all happening, and the fear was worse than any paranormal investigation I’d ever been a part of, worse than the aftermath of any horror film I’d ever watched. The museum was set to open the next day.

It turns out, Zak is an incredible guy. He cancelled the opening of his museum to pay his respects and mourn the loss of the victims. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to see the museum before I left, but I had the utmost respect for Zak for unselfishly pushing the opening date back.

In a bizarre turn of events, he ended up opening while we were still there. I met Zak and Aaron the opening day of the museum, and it was everything I had hoped for and more. If anyone is interested, I will gladly write a review dedicated completely to the museum because it was perfect and beautiful. There was a point to all of this, I swear. If you made it this far, the good stuff is coming.

There is one room in the museum (the very last room, to be exact) that is more terrifying than the Dibbuk Box, more terrifying than any of the dolls or clowns or relics Zak has collected. I was unaffected by the rooms (for the most part, they definitely feel eerie and one girl on our tour got scratched pretty bad all over her back) until this last room, where it was explained to us that it was the staircase with some of the dirt from what is called the “Demon House”, a home in Indiana that was said to be haunted by over 200 demons. I felt paralyzed, my eyes welled with tears, and I felt like there was a weight on my chest. Everything in me told me to run, but my body wouldn’t cooperate. I left with a severe ocular migraine, and I was incredibly tired and lethargic for the rest of the day.

Zak is now releasing his experiences within the house in his new documentary, DEMON HOUSE. The house is now demolished, which is how he has the staircase in his museum, however before the demolition, he bought the house in order to do his own investigations to try to either prove or debunk the presence of something evil. I was given the honors of reviewing DEMON HOUSE.

DEMON HOUSE, as I had hoped, is not like an episode of “Ghost Adventures”. It is far more solemn and serious than Zak’s usual lighthearted, over-the-top investigations. He takes this very seriously, which is part of the reason that this documentary genuinely scared the daylights out of me.

Zak enlists the help of credible sources from both the church and scientific fields in order to try to prove or disprove the goings on in the house, which they find to be coming from under the staircase in the basement. Zak and his crew have their own disturbing, bizarre experiences, one of which leads to one of the crew members being fired because of his erratic, violent behavior which stemmed from an obsession with needing to be near the house (he seemingly becomes possessed over the course of the documentary, and I won’t lie to you guys, it’s really fucking freaky), and also leads to a permanent injury to Zak’s eyes.

I won’t give too much about the documentary itself away because I do really, very highly recommend that anyone who even remotely cares about the paranormal watch this film, but what I do want to say is it is not for the faint of heart. As someone that directly had an experience with pieces of that house, something is not right there, and I completely believe that there was something going on.

It’s made beautifully- it’s like a two hour episode of “Ghost Adventures” but without the silliness. It’s dark, actually quite sad at times, and everything is documented through the crew, surveillance cameras, etc. throughout the house. There are a handful of strange figures and shadows caught on tape, spikes in electromagnetic fields, the things you expect to see in a regular episode of the show.

What you don’t see in the show though is this side of Zak – he’s terrified and that makes it very unsettling as a viewer. We’re used to seeing him as a slightly humorous, over-the-top guy…he takes his role of making sure his crew is safe very seriously, and it’s weird to see him so upset all of the time.

The one thing that kind of irked me as I watched this though, was the fact that I have watched essentially every episode of “Ghost Adventures”, and they did not do one single EVP session in the entire documentary. I don’t know if that was something they skipped over with all of the “evidence” that they had already and they just felt that they didn’t need to do it, or if they didn’t catch anything and preferred not to mention that.

Some things did come off a little bit cheesy, some of the dialogue does feel a little bit scripted and some reactions to things seem like they may have been filmed after the fact, but I can’t say any of that for certain. It’s just an observation that I made while watching, because I’m skeptical of basically anything that has to do with horror these days.

Other than that, DEMON HOUSE plays like more of a found footage film than a documentary. It feels like a film which makes it both easy to watch, but scarier than your average ghost film because this is, in fact, a documentary, and I would like to assume that everything that goes on is real.

This is one film/documentary that I advise you not to skip – keep it on your radar and make sure you watch when it is finally released on March 16th. It’s spooky, eerie, disturbing, well-made, and for “Ghost Adventure” fans, it’s a real treat.

The house is now demolished, but don’t forget, you can visit pieces at the Zak Bagans Haunted Museum in downtown Las Vegas, and it is absolutely incredible.

Taylor Krauss
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