clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

'Sarah' merits an early grave

Rissa Walters stars in "Sarah Landon and the Parnormal Hour."
Rissa Walters stars in "Sarah Landon and the Parnormal Hour."
Freestyle Releasing

SARAH LANDON AND THE PARANORMAL HOUR — * 1/2 — Rissa Walters, Brian Comrie; rated PG (violence, profanity); Century Sandy; Cinemark Jordan Landing; Megaplex District

You have to admire the chutzpah it takes to swan-dive into the tween-teenage market dominated by the behemoths Disney and Nickelodeon. FreeStyle Releasing, the modest distributor behind "Dragon Wars: D-War," clearly possesses it, although, judging by "Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour," its rivals have little to worry about.

Beginning with the "Harry Potter"-like title, it's obvious that this film is aimed at girls raised on J.K. Rowling and R.L. Stine. The 17-year-old sleuth of the title (played by the competent newcomer Rissa Walters, refreshingly not too Hollywood glamorous or svelte), goes to a small town to see the grandmother (Jane Harris) of a friend killed by a drunken driver.

There she meets Matt and David Baker (the real-life brothers Dan and Brian Comrie, respectively). David fears that a malevolent spirit will kill him on his 21st birthday in revenge for a fatal car wreck. (The paranormal hour, apparently, is newspeak for the witching hour.)

The plot of the movie, which parades, in softened form, conventions like scrawls on walls and vertiginous camerawork, coheres, more or less. But the film is sunk by a pervasive stasis, the by-product not of mood but of the filmmakers' amateurish abilities. If there's one thing Nick and Disney know, it's that youthful entertainment needs to keep moving.

Unfortunately, Walters is subordinated to the true stars, the Comries. Despite its title, "Sarah Landon" is actually a Comrie family party: One Comrie directed it, another helped write it, and more are credited as executive producers.

The premise is valid, and the filmmakers seek a sequel. But this would-be franchise might be better suited to an early grave.

"Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour" is rated PG for thematic elements, mild peril and language. Running time: 81 minutes.