Lost Suburbia (2007)
Directed by Paul Natale, Peter Bunem, Sean King, Terrence Smith and Elizabeth Smith
“Five Long Island, New York independent filmmakers have come together to produce this labor of love (three years in the making) feature anthology based on local haunted legends that have plagued their childhood nightmares. The four short films are based on the hangings at Sweet Hollow Road (Paul Natale's "Misery Loves"), the lady in white ghost (Sean King's "Mary's Grave"), the abandoned Kings Park psychiatric facility (Terrence and Elizabeth Smith's "The Institute For Mental Hygiene") and the Native American tale of Lake Ronkonkoma (Pete Bune's "Lady of Lake Ronkonkoma"). The fictional films are preceded by documentary segments that explore the legend's origins and feature interviews with experts on the subject such as paranormal investigator Joe Giaquinto, 'Weird NY' authors Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman, and 'Ghosts of Long Island: Stories of the Paranormal' author Kerriann Flanagan Brosky, along with historical photos, dramatic reenactments, location footage, and testimonials by locals who have been effected by the legends; supernaturally or otherwise. Lost Suburbia is a not just for Long Island natives, but a must see for anyone interested in history and the supernatural.”
Lost Suburbia is a anthology that should not be ignored. Ghost tales and local legends always have a preinstalled fan base and it isn’t hard to see why. Horror fans are always on the hunt for a new thrill, and what is more terrifying than the mysteries surround our real world instead of the one on the TV screen. The filmmakers behind LS have brought together four short projects based on some of Long Island’s most famous tales.
Each of the four films starts off very strong. A short introduction is made by various myth/history authors who know the legend behind the following feature and give us a tiny taste about what, if anything inspired the stories. Here is where Lost Suburbia is at its strongest: the interviews. When talking about local legends and stuff like that, interviews with witnesses, experts and psychics usually provide the biggest punch. Sincerity is the best way to creep into our brains.
After the interviews conclude LS departs from being a documentary and turns into a film … well, four short ones. Here’s where the whole thing starts to derail. Maybe it’s all the time spent reviewing low budget films that has made me a little bitter, but not one of the original stories based off the myths sent a shiver down my spine. Maybe it is due to the way each story unfolds?
Yes, that’s about right. Instead of giving us quick snippets based on eye witness accounts similar to what has been done on shows like Unsolved Mysteries, the audience is treated to original tales that connect to the legends in a very loose way. For example, in Misery Loves a group of suicidal kids decide to off themselves together like the stories heard about Sweet Hollow Road. One of the pact members chickens out and then is haunted until he himself hangs like the rest of his friends.
Sounds really good on paper, but the execution lacked flavor. We don’t know why they all want to die, nor do we care. We get small hints that we should feel something for the coward, but there’s just not enough there to work with. The same can be said about Mary’s Grave. The viewer is shown a really creepy looking ghost, but when the story comes to a close, there’s a lot of, “Uh, what is going on?” Due to the short runtime of each story there had to have been cuts made to the scripts, which is understandable.
Things do pick up, however, when Lady of Lake Ronkonkoma comes on. Again we are introduced to more characters that we don't get to know much about, but the story in presented in such a strange and isolated manner that the mood becomes the driving force instead of the actors. Lake + Woods + Native American ghosts = brown trouser time!
Kings Park psychiatric facility's story would have been really great if they had shied away from a mental breakdown/love story and just shown us all of the locations interiors for a half hour or so. At least we do get to view these different locales all throughout Long Island instead of being stuck on some Hollywood set, but perhaps this would have gone over better as a straight documentary. In any case, check out Lost Suburbia for yourself as it makes the rounds at various screenings and let us know what you think.
3 1/2 out of 5