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Askew Review 15

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The below is also available on DVD, which is packed with extras.

STRAWBERRY ESTATES (Sub Rosa) Horror/ thriller. 100 minutes. NR. Jason is hired by Dr. Jonathan Laurel to video-document his expedition into a long abandoned, and rumored haunted, mental asylum called Strawberry Estates. Legend has it that Strawberry Estates is located on Indian spirtual grounds that are very high in energy. Along for the ride is Sarah, a young student of the Dr.’s, and Jennifer, a psychic whose mother died while committed to the asylum. Dr. Laurel hopes to have Jennifer channel some of the haunting spirits to prove his theory of Heaven and Hell. After a few incident free nights, Jennifer is able to see some visions and becomes a bit agitated. At about the same time, Dr. Laurel starts to become incoherent while filming and seems to suddenly be distracted by something. The crew also finds some strange writings on the walls, which no one claims to have written. As things grow creepier, Jennifer is overcome by a channeled spirit and begins to say things that disturb the rest of the crew. As he and Sarah try to get out of Strawberry Estates, Jason is able to call the police for help. However, when the police arrive, they only find Jason’s film.
     This movie is shot similar to The Blair Witch Project, but Strawberry Estates was originally shot way before Blair Witch. This video simply depicts the happenings on the grounds of the asylum. This “found footage” movie is loaded with dialog. The characters spend a lot of time talking about Strawberry Estates and its legend, as well as some of the people who were affected by its hauntings. The characters also heavily discuss their beliefs in religion, the paranormal, and other spiritual stuff. We also get to watch as a little love affair blossoms between Jason and Sarah.  Overall, the acting is pretty good, although the Dr. kind of annoyed me. Jason and Sarah are perfect, while Jennifer really didn’t make her mark on me either way. I found the dialog to be interesting because I love discussing the stuff I mention above. If you’re not into that kind of chitchat, you may find ¾ of this movie dull. However, when the action near the end of the flic picks up, it is pretty creepy. The use of a night vision camera is great and adds a neat twist to the visual aspect of the movie. Strawberry Estates will surely be compared to Blair Witch, but it really shouldn’t be. There is more intellectual meat to sink your teeth into with Strawberry Estates than Blair Witch. Strawberry Estates deals with your mindset, and then squashes you visually. There are more than a few “jump out of your seat” scenes to be seen here. In fact, after I was extremely startled by one scene, I almost fired off an email to Director/writer Ron Bonk (The Vicious Sweet) calling him an asshole for scaring me. Great camera work, creepy shooting location, and cool plot makes Strawberry Estates a great video to watch on Halloween, or any other night. – Denis Sheehan



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