Bad Ben is a franchise that’s pretty much solely available to watch on Amazon Prime, so if you have it, great, if you don’t, you’ll probably have a really hard time finding this series. Now, because these are probably the cheapest movies I’ve ever seen, I’m going to make them all short reviews because there’s not a LOT to talk about when it comes to these movies. They are all found footage films, and nearly all of them are shot by one guy, on his phone, in his own house. How it made it to Prime as one film is beyond me, but basically two a year? I’m blown away. The idea is pretty simple – a haunted house, haunted by the infamous “Bad Ben”, and usually just the one guy’s experience with that – the real question is…how do they span that across six different movies? Let’s get into it.
#1. BAD BEN (2016)
Tom Riley invested every penny he had into buying a home at a Sheriff’s sale that he hoped to flip. Almost immediately, unexplained events happened which led him to realize the house was possessed with the spirits of the previous owners. All the footage was captured on his cell phone and downloaded from the cloud server of 21 security cameras installed in the home by the previous owners.Amazon Prime
First off, let me start by saying I know personally how difficult it is to make a feature-length film when there’s really not much script or even people working on a movie. For it to be feature-length with just one man is astronomically impressive and he has all my praise. He also does a decent job of utilizing his amateur-ness to sell this as being real. The more amateur these movies are, the scarier they become, in my opinion. Just taking the camera around and looking at everything as you would typically do on any other occasion is almost terrifying because our minds are used to the idea that something scary will pop out at us, and we subconsciously continue to cower, waiting for the eventual moment, whether it happens or not.
That being said, the budget really shows itself here, because I caught a lot of technical problems both visually and auditory. Visually, Nigel Bach utilizes simple editing techniques to make it appear as though something supernatural is happening, like speaking in the background while pausing a video, making it look like things are moving and stopping all on their own. But…cheaper cameras hold a lot more static than more professional cameras, so I also see that static stop, which removes the illusion. Same goes for audio. You hear furniture moving downstairs as if it is happening right behind you – so the volume of the sound effects weren’t really altered, there was no muffling going on to act like the sounds came from another floor. These technical issues take you out of it. That being said, I can’t help but feel as if the movie is surprisingly creepy for what little work went into making it.
#2. STEELMANVILLE ROAD (2017)
Matt and Rachael Harris inherit a home from her mother, a woman she never met that put her up for adoption at birth. It’s the type of home they dreamed of owning but thought they’d never be able to afford. Strange things start happening almost immediately after moving in and everything is captured on video.Amazon Prime
Technically, the purpose of this film was to be a prequel of the first, explaining how things came to be. This film follows a much more common, stereotypical structure found in most found footage films, as it follows around a cast of characters, not just one guy, and later down the road, you learn of a legend which helps explain the “why”. Naturally, this movie was going to be made. I didn’t know when, but it made sense to include this film in the series one way or another, as it does a pretty good job filling in whatever gaps the first film may have left out.
As much as I thought it would be better, the added cast made things worse. Nobody in this movie could act. It’s not that Nigel Bach could act in the first one, but he could at least present normalcy in a believable manner. These people seem to be trying a little too hard, and they fail miserably. The film also tries to add new things into the mix, like visual shots of apparitions, and it looks really bad, like cheap masking work done in post, which I’m sure was exactly what they did. There’s just no subtlety about it. It’s in your face and it’s kind of laughable. Even the black makeup around the eyes looks like Sharpie or shoe polish, it’s so bad, you have no idea. Beyond that, the first film wasn’t THAT original, but this took a huge page out of the first Paranormal Activity film, specifically when it came to the girl in the film.
#3. BADDER BEN: THE FINAL CHAPTER (2017)
The final film in the Bad Ben Trilogy has a team of paranormal investigators return to the Steelmanville Road property to make a documentary about what happened there. The most significant discovery they make is that Tom Riley is not dead and they bring him back to the home to be the centerpiece of their film. This found footage, horror, comedy, has the perfect blend of frights and fun.Amazon Prime
Here’s what’s interesting me thus far in the series – Nigel Bach continues to make the films different than one another, that has to be really difficult to pull off with what little he has at hand. Yes, this movie is called “The Final Chapter” even though it’s only currently halfway done. I have a growing theory that the film series will never end, but maybe that’s just me. I have to give it props for continuing to add new elements, which really helps spice what would otherwise be seen as the same exact movie.
That being said, the film faces a few issues. It’s nice to have Tom Riley’s character added back into the mix, as he’s mostly turned into the voice of the saga all around. I also liked the idea of the paranormal investigators, as we finally had a story goal. People were actually trying to something in the movie, which was a first, but it suffered greatly with too much exposition. Nearly all of Tom Riley’s importance was to be the tour guide of sorts, explaining everything that happened in the first movie. Guys…we already saw it. The documentary isn’t communicating anything, because it would be dedicated to a fictional fanbase that already knows everything that occurred anyway…why are you doing this? All I can think of is filler, filler, filler. That’s something I’ve been afraid of in the series: not enough stuff to use, so you gotta rehash some of the old, and this is the worst form of rehashing I’ve ever seen. Not only that, but I begun to get confused why they were making a documentary in the first place when they’re supposed to be paranormal investigators. This should’ve been more Ghost Hunters than A True Hollywood Story.
#4. BAD BEN: THE MANDELA EFFECT (2018)
In 2016, the horror Tom Riley experience in a home he bought at a sheriff’s sale was captured on 21 security cameras in the home. What if he was experiencing this over and over again in parallel universes? Bad Ben: The Mandela Effect gathers footage together that shows the paranormal experiences Tom had seem to keep occurring.Amazon Prime
Admittedly, I am a huge fan of the Mandela Effect. The overall idea that a massive group of people have memories of events that never happened is a consistently fascinating concept. To see this franchise continued, starting with an installment that utilizes the concept of the Mandela Effect is not only great…it’s original. We haven’t seen a ton of films focusing on it because it’s a complicated idea to get right, and I’d say this movie is more on the spectrum of multiverse theory/time-loop than anything else, but it was still pretty imaginative and it kept the franchise feeling extremely fresh as a whole.
Here’s where the constant problems arise: pacing. In general, this is a short movie. It caps at an unimpressive running time of 67 minutes, which means it doesn’t have filler material, which is great, but it also doesn’t allow much time for explanations. Things happen in a kind of random manner, and you can’t even feel the true Groundhog Day vibe because things don’t play out exactly the same every time, or at least not enough for it to feel like he’s re-living the same experience. How would he fix this? In my opinion, by just adding more running time and writing out what he wanted to do with the film a little more. I feel like he didn’t, and this is a range of random short films…which are fine, but I know for a fact it inspired to be better than it was. It just, maybe, inspired a little too much for itself.
#5. THE CRESCENT MOON CLOWN (2018)
New owners have moved into Steelmanville Road and their daughter Renee is home alone her first night. Unexplained things start happening immediately and at first she believes some of her friends have snuck in the house to scare her, but soon she learns it’s something evil. The source of evil appears to emanate from a clown doll she found in a locked box that’s now free.Amazon Prime
Okay, here it is. This is what I was expecting to happen by the second film, third at most – a film that should be something new…but really isn’t. It still follows around one person, although it’s not Tom this time, and it has a new horrific creature that is taunting the main character…but it’s mostly just retelling the first film. Nothing feels new…not even the titular crescent moon clown. Technically, the actress playing the main character is probably the best actor the series has had up to this point, but you can hardly even tell because everything else is so mediocre and bland. Actually, it’s a complete mystery to me as to how The Mandela Effect was a shorter film while this went back to being feature-length. Believe it or not, this is the only movie in the series that had me feeling like my time was wasted from beginning to end.
#6. BAD BEN: THE WAY IN (2019)
The new owner of the haunted house on Steelmanville Road hires the person with the most experience in dealing with the evil in the home to rid it of all malevolent forces prior to moving in. That person is Tom Riley, who has survived countless encounters with ghosts and demons in the home. Desperate for cash, he accepts the challenge. To succeed, he must find out how they’re getting in!Amazon Prime
Once again, we have another addition to the franchise that adds little to nothing new. Tom Riley is once again at the forefront, which definitely helps. Like I said, he’s the voice of the series, and without him, it needs a really good concept to replace his role, but that doesn’t mean if he’s in the movie that it doesn’t need a good concept. The Way In was just more of the same. I liked that they revisited the idea of Tom in his new role as paranormal investigator, but they needed more ties to Badder Ben. Where are his co-workers? You’d think they’d want to be a part of returning to the house, right? Anyway, I noticed more visual and practical effects in this film that were once again mostly easy, but some were more of a challenge. I also liked that there was a story goal in this film, meaning only TWO films in this entire saga have story goals.
Finally, I have finished the Bad Ben saga. I’m glad I did, but at this point, I’m exhausted. In general, the series overstayed its welcome by the time The Mandela Effect was over with. Even that had a good idea, but mostly missed all of its potential. Everything after that was a pain to get through because it was just rehashing the same old, same old, without anything fresh or new. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely sympathize with Nigel Bach as a filmmaker. He uses a lot of creativity and utilizes what he has on hand, which sometimes is respectfully impressive…but none of this is scary. I don’t know if it’s really ever trying to be. I know it’s sort of trying to be light and humorous, and sometimes, the self-aware humor works well in a “so bad it’s good” way…but not always.
OVERALL FRANCHISE SCORE – 38%
|Bad Ben: The Mandela Effect||45%|
|Badder Ben: The Final Chapter||43%|
|Bad Ben: The Way In||32%|
|The Crescent Moon Clown||20%|
PEOPLE CATEGORY SCORES
|Bad Ben 1||1||1||3||3||0||8|
|Bad Ben 2||0||1||0||0||1||2|
|Bad Ben 3||0||1||1||2||1||5|
|Bad Ben 4||1||1||4||2||0||8|
|Bad Ben 5||2||0||2||0||1||5|
|Bad Ben 6||1||1||2||2||0||6|
WRITING CATEGORY SCORES
|Bad Ben 1||1||1||0||0||1||3|
|Bad Ben 2||0||1||0||0||1||2|
|Bad Ben 3||0||1||0||0||1||2|
|Bad Ben 4||1||0||0||2||2||5|
|Bad Ben 5||1||1||0||0||1||3|
|Bad Ben 6||1||2||0||0||1||4|
BEHIND-THE-SCENES CATEGORY SCORES
|Bad Ben 1||0||2||0||2||0||4|
|Bad Ben 2||0||1||1||2||1||5|
|Bad Ben 3||0||1||1||2||1||5|
|Bad Ben 4||1||1||0||2||1||5|
|Bad Ben 5||1||1||1||2||1||6|
|Bad Ben 6||0||1||1||2||1||5|
NARRATIVE ARC CATEGORY SCORES
|Bad Ben 1||0||2||1||2||0||5|
|Bad Ben 2||2||0||1||2||1||6|
|Bad Ben 3||1||2||1||2||2||8|
|Bad Ben 4||2||0||1||0||0||3|
|Bad Ben 5||2||1||1||1||1||6|
|Bad Ben 6||0||2||2||2||0||6|
ENTERTAINMENT CATEGORY SCORES
|Bad Ben 1||1||2||0||0||2||5|
|Bad Ben 2||0||1||0||0||1||2|
|Bad Ben 3||0||1||0||0||0||1|
|Bad Ben 4||0||2||0||1||1||4|
|Bad Ben 5||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Bad Ben 6||0||0||0||0||1||1|
SPECIALTY CATEGORY SCORES
|Bad Ben 1||10||10||0||10||30|
|Bad Ben 2||10||5||0||5||20|
|Bad Ben 3||10||5||0||5||20|
|Bad Ben 4||5||5||0||10||20|
|Bad Ben 5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Bad Ben 6||5||0||0||5||10|