Feel free to call me crazy now, but a long time ago – when I was far more fearless and impulsive than I am now – I had a brief interaction with a ghost.
The girl I was living with at the time said she had suspected there was one living in our house. So, one day – after scant few preparations – I set out to talk to it, to help it move on. I thought I was being nice. So, long story short, I asked it to let me know if it was there. Immediately I felt a tingling on my upper arms, as if someone had laid their hands on me. It was a bit of a surreal moment; one I couldn’t help thinking of while watching “The Casebook of Eddie Brewer”.
After a brief paranormal incident, we meet Eddie Brewer (Ian Brooker) who is showing his records and various “trophies” to Laura (Natalie Wilson), the leader of a documentary team Eddie is allowing to join him on his investigations. Their first appointment is with a beleaguered mother (Bella Hamblin) plagued by poltergeist activities that may be centered around her young daughter (Erin Connolly). Next, they visit a council house (the U.K.’s version of public housing) with a suspected haunting. Through it all, we see Eddie come face to face with hostile skeptics, disdainful colleagues and the realization that something is trying to tell him someone.
Despite Hollywood’s best efforts to kill this form of storytelling – or at the very least to tarnish its reputation, cinema vérité is still alive and well and doing quite nicely in The Casebook of Eddie Brewer”. While every film has to have a certain “realness” to it, the demands of a mockumentary like this or other similar found footage efforts, there is a certain verisimilitude – an ordinary-ness – that has to be achieved to be truly successful. Writer/director Andrew Spencer does an excellent job of creating this realism. It seems like an odd thing to to attach superlatives for creating something so… ordinary, but it was precisely what this film needed. Nothing quirky or over the top it was just normal which makes it the perfect backdrop for the paranormal.
He also does a great job of populating it with plenty of tasty characters. There are no indie film caricatures here, but friends, co-workers neighbors and relatives. Brooker completely inhabits the role of the earnest seeker, Brewer. He is the standard bearer for the rest of the cast. Each of them is pitch perfect for what they’re doing. And young Miss Connolly excels taking the genre mantle of the “creepy kid” and wearing it with ease, though she does have a dodgy moment or two but those pass quickly.
And while I am the first to sing the praises of the film’s realism, I think it also caused me to have problems with the film’s ending. It wasn’t so much the film’s proper ending as it was with it’s climax at the council house. Maybe the point of it was to be mysterious and to raise more questions, but I found that slightly problematic the first time I watched it. Still, that’s probably the biggest knock I have against this film.
The holy grail of found footage films is to make the audience forget that they are watching a movie at all and just watching life. “The Casebook of Eddie Brewer” nails it and is good for a few chills along the way.
Technical: 4 – Well shot. Well acted. Well done.
Gore: 1 – Really, this should be a zero. The movie is bloodless with one brief creature effect.
Horror: 3 – It’s a nice slow burn to, yes, the inevitable confrontation but was that really the end?
The B-Factor: 1 – Not a lot of kitsch here. Pretty straightforward. Clever but not cheeky.
Overall: 3.5 – “The Casebook of Eddie Brewer” is a solid little mockumentary. While it doesn’t do things in big ways, it does them in most of the right ways.