Documentary Review: Mississippi ghost hunting continues at “The House in Between Part 2”

There’s something to be said for quitting while you’re ahead.

I’m not talking about the filmmakers/paranormalists who returned to the “haunted” house in Florence, Mississippi after making “The House in Between” about their investigations into a striking, modernish A-frame where lights come on by themselves, bumps and “disembodied voices” fill the night and pretty much anything they leave on the stairs rolls or falls off.

The need for “The House in Between Part 2” had to be a matter of pride. Because as I said in my review, they do not make their case or seal the deal with the first film.

“Part 2” is a slicker, higher-budget effort, with what looks like better quality cameras and a spooky, composed chamber music score.

As to “proving” ghosts exist and that something or someone is haunting this stylish Mississippi Amityville home via their “Paranormal Activity” cameras, night-vision and motion detectors, I’d say they came closest to winning skeptical viewers in the first act. Early scenes showing what appear to be call-and-response efforts to get the ghost(s) to roll one of a collection of balls off the staircase do indeed produce balls that seem to roll off their perch on command.

Sure, the doll they set up, facing/teetering backwards on the lip of a stair, seems about to tumble before the investigator takes his hand off it.

But early on, the film is convincing enough that most viewers are going to narrow the possibilities of all this to two outcomes. Either “something odd” is going on in that house at 322 Whatever Street in Florence, or these eager-to-find-proof beavers are faking it.

Short of visiting that house, I’m not sure even co-director/hype-man Steve Gonsalves‘ self-declared “most thorough and in-depth paranormal investigation that has ever been documented” should convince anybody. He makes a few statements like that, and everybody here pretty much talks in the weasel language of “I’m not saying that I think” when that’s exactly what they’re saying.

Still, giving the film crew the benefit of the doubt, that what they’re hearing (not clear and not convincing) or seeing (something more curious) is legit, that first act does make one wonder.

Alas, they don’t quit there.

To their credit, the makers of the 2020 film go out and find more folks who might deliver a natural (as opposed to supernatural) explanation for the noises, movement and lights that owner Alice Jackson and others claim to have seen/experienced in her house.

A guy sweeps the property with ground-penetrating radar. An actual geophysicist named Carolyn Streiff electronically pokes around, looking for elemental explanations about phenomena. And there’s digging. They throw some money at this sequel, in front of and behind the camera, above and below the ground.

But that, for me, is where “In Between 2” drifts off course. Metal detecting is one thing. Getting into the history of town from a local historian is interesting, digging into Alice’s life story and a recent tragedy and surveying what might be beneath the ground may seem “logical,” but only to ghost story buffs and horror film fanatics.

This is how this haunting or that grisly series of encounters with the supernatural is “explained” — in movies like “Paranormal Activity,” “The Blair Witch Project,” etc. The “experts” summoned in the later acts are more true believers and “ghost hunters,” with a California hypnotherapist thrown in for good measure.

None of this builds on the case made in the opening act. It just pads the film out to a longer length and waters down its impact.

Gonsalves even moves the goalposts in the third act. All of a sudden, this “looking for proof” story becomes “get Alice back into her house” to live, via their investigations, since she’s too jumpy to spend the night here.

Well, at least they spared us a “spiritual cleansing” or exorcism.

When paranormal gadget guru Elizabeth Saint whines that “I would love to get to a place where the field is taken more seriously” by legitimate science, we’re simply reminded of how under-credentialed and unconvincing this social circle (some of them met at “conventions”) of self-anointed experts is.

If what they’re seeing and experiencing is as real as it seems to them, you’d think they could show their evidence and talk somebody with heavy duty credentials to fly in and verify some of what they claim.

Short of that, “House in Between Part 2” is just like part one, a circle-jerk of the credulous fluffing the credulous, none of them credible enough on her or his own to make the case.

Rating: unrated, profanity

Cast: Alice Jackson, Steven Gonsalves, Brad Cooney, Elizabeth Saint, Carolyn Streiff, John Bullard, Dustin Pari, Laurie McDonald and Morgan Gates

Directed by Steve Gonsalves and Kendall Whelpton, A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:42

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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