Filmmaker Sean Cisterna and executive producer Avi Federgreen reunite after their likeable road trip romp Moon Point to collaborate in new territory.
With 30 Ghosts, Cisterna trails the paranormal investigating life of Kim Hadfield and the rest of her Halton Paranormal Group. The troupe head out on night long trips to capture suspicious spiritual activity hidden away in the looming shadows. When she’s not hitting up abandoned houses and taking video proof for the group’s YouTube channel, Kim looks after horses on her farm and mothers her levelheaded children.
There is an interesting story in Sean Cisterna’s documentary, even if the director stretches it too thin during the middle. It revolves around a theme that I’m starting to believe Cisterna is a fan of.
30 Ghosts isn’t a story of sticking to a cherished hobby in order to follow dreams. Hadfield notes often that she would love to have her own television show about paranormal investigating – without all of that fake stuff – but, the doc isn’t about the lengths Hadfield goes through to reach that determined goal.
The theme isn’t about misfits per se, but 30 Ghosts chronicles that “big kid” mentality of people finding others who are equally as fascinated by the same unique eccentricities. Hadfield and company know there’s no money in uncovering paranormal activity, but they enjoy rummaging with each other through the remains of something that once existed and seeing if something – or someone – still inhabits it. These gloomy destinations are essentially their getaways from adulthood.
The documentary also captures Kim’s daytime life and how she deals with more serious issues such as declining business on her farm. A particularly upsetting sequence showing how difficult goodbyes can be will cause those ready to pull their shirts up over their eyes in fright to instead hold back tears.
As much as its promotional material, its ominous title, and its limited Halloween release may have made you believe that 30 Ghosts is going to be scary, it really isn’t. Especially with its mellow acoustic soundtrack. The scariness peaks during the first few minutes where Kim’s voice is heard over a flashlight lit search.
Cisterna can’t (and won’t) cook up his material in a way that seems disingenuous. After all, those moves would make the doc into something Hadfield wouldn’t approve of. However, this leads to investigations that are a bit like waiting for water to boil.
It’s exciting to see Kim step away from her worries to focus on where to strike next with her crew. All their discussions about their equipment and close calls are enough to get us jazzed. But, when we see the stake outs in action, it’s a lot of our leading team taking aimless snapshots in the dark with their digital cameras and coming up empty handed. We in the audience feel their frustration, but it’s not always the same type.
30 Ghosts may have been stronger and held more resonance if it was – funny enough – a short form documentary made for television that would play on TVO or PBS. The film Sean Cisterna has made though is a perfectly fine doc that sheds light onto a fascinating subject and the phantom fascinations she finds so intriguing.