Review: Haunting of Cellblock 11

haunting-of-cellblock-11-posterI was browsing films to watch on Amazon Instant Video last night and came this close to passing on Haunting of Cellblock 11. It was yet another horror feature film surrounding a paranormal investigating crew that encounter real, deadly spirits. Was it not for the fact that several reviewers mentioned that this is not a found footage film, I would have kept on clicking. Being a reality television whore and having an even bigger love for the horror genre, coupled with the fact that this was a narrative picture, I gave it a chance and here’s my thoughts having viewed it.

Haunting of Cellblock 11 is written and directed by Andrew P. Jones. Cast members include Jeffrey Johnson, Linara Washington, Charley Koontz (Neil in “Community”), John Zderko, Bill Lithgow, Dee Wallace (scream queen: The Howling, Cujo, Critters), and Peter Mayer.

In Haunting of Cellblock 11, “a group of ghost hunters must up their game to compete in the competitive world of paranormal TV shows, leading them to a truly haunted prison with a grisly past that proves to be more than they bargained for.”

The first thing that really stuck me about this title is that the camera work and camera quality is excellent. This proved, right from the get-go, that Haunting of Cellblock 11 was going to be a very professional, slightly more budgeted film. Cinematographer Warren Yeager and the entire camera department (there’s way too many people to name individually) get a round of applause for their efforts here. In actuality, all technical aspects of this movie were worked to perfection and I think everyone should be proud of what was accomplished here. It’s shocking to me that this movie hasn’t received a much bigger release because it’s better than a handful of the other “Ghost Hunters” inspired projects out there. It’s definitely one of the better ones since Grave Encounters in 2011.

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Another thing I really enjoyed about Haunting of Cellblock 11 is that they didn’t go the traditional paranormal investigators route where the audience only gets to know the lead investigators. In this movie we get to know other minor characters such as two television interns, the groundskeeper, a haunted pizza place owner, a psychic little girl, and a diner waitress. It spruces up the script and actually makes it more interesting by seeing more than the same four faces for an hour and a half. Also in relation to the script, everyone playing it out is fantastic. Dee Wallace shows that she still has “it” as the soul-sucking network executive. Linara Washington was great with her portrayal and she felt like a real “person” instead of just a “character.” My favorite, though, was the lead Jeffrey Johnson. He was the perfect choice for the role because he’s charismatic, sharp, has a rich tone to his voice, and I would probably tune in to the first episode of something he was hosting based on that charisma. Great casting choices all around.

I also liked that Haunting of Cellblock 11 poked fun at other real life ghost hunting teams without being disrespectful. From the character roles and the jobs they took on as part of the group, to some of the things they said and did, it was a very respectful mocking… If that makes sense. I think the best line of the entire movie was from Dee Wallace with, “Your show is called ‘Ghost Sightings.’ Not Ghost Séance. Not Ghosts That We Kind of Think are There. Ghost sightings!” That was the perfect little jab to all the shows who hear a floorboard creek and freak out, saying it’s a ghost attacking them.


Obviously, I got a kick out of Haunting of Cellblock 11, but there were a few things I didn’t enjoy. First, the backing tracks and scoring are just so, so cheesy. It brings the seriousness and professionalism of the movie down a notch. They’re good, but amateur, and this movie is another but amateur. Second, the CGI effects are worse. Like worse than what’s on SyFy. All of the practical effects and movie magic techniques used during the ghost attacks were fantastic, but as soon as the computer generated ghosts started popping up it was cheesy. Also, someone hangs themselves in the movie and the survivors show little to no emotion as they watch it happen. These three elements brought an amateurish quality to a movie that is so much better than that.

Haunting of Cellblock 11 is one of the sleepers (meaning good movies that passed people by) of 2014. I had never even heard of this one until I stumbled upon it on Amazon Instant Video. I’m glad I did, though. Besides the three criticisms above, this movie is worthy of a viewing, especially if you’re into great acting, great camera work, reality television, and ghastly ghosts. I’m going to rate this one a 7.7 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)

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