By Ian Watson (Wales)
When asked what she was most looking forward to in retirement, Pauline Kael replied: “No more Oliver Stone movies.” If the late New Yorker critic had problems with the likes of Platoon and Wall Street, you can imagine her displeasure at Greystone Park, whose sole novelty is that it marks the debut feature of Stone’s son Sean. Actually, that’s not true: it might be 2012’s umpteenth ‘found footage’ movie, but it’s also the first to feature a multiple Oscar winner in a cameo.
Two-time Best Director Oliver appears early on (as “Oliver”) to share a ghost story over dinner, but makes absolutely no attempt to stop Sean (as “Sean”) and his film crew poking around in an abandoned asylum at midnight which, in our humble opinion, is just lousy parenting. “Legend has it that anyone who goes inside will go mad”, cautions a friend, so straightaway the viewer (as “Underwhelmed”) knows what to expect: they’ll go to the damn asylum anyway, wander down some dark corridors, then start swinging the camera around as things go bump. Audience goes Zzzzz.
That Greystone Park was released in the UK as The Asylum Tapes is only fitting – a bland, generic title is appropriate for a bland, generic film. Astute viewers will recall how, a few years back, some witch movie hit upon the notion of a trio of actors playing themselves that disappeared while shooting a documentary. As if to prove how far humanity has advanced in the interim, Stone Jnr has hit upon the notion of a trio of actors playing themselves that disappear while shooting a documentary. Opening with a familiar title card (“In October 2009, three young filmmakers broke into an abandoned mental health hospital. This is their story…”), junior throws in some ‘Dire Warnings’ (“My advice is to leave the dead alone…don’t go, please!”) and, once inside the asylum, shakes the camera and uses the minimal lighting to make us wonder if ‘Something Is Out There’. The price we pay for that witch movie keeps getting higher but, considering these shenanigans weren’t any great shakes in the first place, it’s not a price worth paying.
Okay, so you could say the performances and editing here are better than in Documenting The Grey Man, but comparisons are moot because it’s just more of the same, yet another xerox of a copy of an imitation of something that’s been done already. Even for a one-note sub-genre as repetitive and overcrowded as the ‘found footage’ movie, Greystone Park is lazy and disposable, yet you can see why its young director chose it as his first project.
When Oliver made his first feature, 1974’s sub-par Seizure, he was a 27 year-old novice toiling away in the horror genre for a few credits that would allow him to pursue more personal projects, which we understand worked out for him. Junior proves himself a chip off the old block by turning in his own sub-par horror flick at age 27, but as for what the future may hold, we can only speculate.
Hopefully it’ll show more promise and maturity, give the impression it was crafted rather than photocopied. Or he might blow it and make a biopic of Alexander The Great with Angelina Jolie playing Colin Farrell’s mom!