Horror is a genre which regularly sees very low, even micro-budget entries from first time directors, especially since the advancement of digital filmmaking. This has seen the market becoming saturated with poor and unoriginal fare, but, every so often, something breaks through the gloom, jumping out and thrilling its audience. Sadly, that is most certainly not the case with Michael Rooker’s The Lost Episode (2012), which crucially lacks any of the discernible sense of oppressive atmosphere it requires to execute its premise. The plot sees a group of teens travelling up to an abandoned asylum, Pennhurst, to spend the night there.
When they get there, we are treated to the story of a film crew for a reality ghost-hunting TV show that supposedly disappeared there one year earlier. The crew quickly become aware that the building is home to many ghosts and it’s not long before the crazed Dr. Death begins to stalk the halls picking them off one by one. The Lost Episode’s production values are minimal at best, but this is something which can easily be overlooked given the great setting which means that little needs to be added.
The cast are all fine, if not especially good, and so watching them for just over an hour is not especially problematic. On top of that, the haunted asylum and mad doctor motifs may be as well worn as a Scooby-Doo villain’s monster costume but it’s certainly still got mileage in terms of creating a creepy setting for grisly ghostly mayhem.
Where all falls down completely for The Lost Episode is in its execution. Despite its dilapidated setting and host of ghouls, there is no atmosphere, no creepiness, no scares, and as such, it winds up being massively dull. When the crew are split up, and wander the grimy corridors alone, there are so many opportunities to try to create some real tension that it becomes infuriating to see the filmmakers squandering them. This is probably not helped by the fact that almost all of the events occur during the day and so there is no chance for a dimly lit corridor to dance with disconcerting shadows.
The one thing that is relatively creepy is the janitor, Willard (J. LaRose), but he features minimally and his fate is written on the wall like so many ectoplasmic messages from early on. Otherwise the film fails to deliver a single moment of shock or menace even when it attempts a final twist. It also has an epilogue which makes little to no sense. If you’d like a haunted house story, you’re better off passing on The Lost Episode and looking elsewhere.