What could be better for a horror movie fan than a horror movie that's set in a haunted cinema? And the answer is: pretty much anything if this gorefree borefest is the best that's on offer. For all the ideas of ghosts and restless spirits bent on revenge it's a dull, uneventful and frankly uninteresting affair that has a jaw-dropping twist at the end that renders the whole movie a cheat, and which makes no sense anyway.
Nominally it's a horror film in which a movie director fears she may be haunted by the ghost of an actress who died on her set and now haunts the cinema in which the scene was shot, tying in to her childhood nightmares of being trapped in a haunted cinema. At a private memorial screening of the late star's blooper reel (yes, really), the producers, actors and boyfriends wander off and are trapped in lifts, locked in the rest room or simply sit around in other auditoria, leaving the director alone... Is the cinema really haunted? Or has everything been staged? Is it something to do with an imminent inheritance? Or is it all down to two of the actresses vying for the lead role in her next film?
Skip this paragraph if you really don't want to know - it's none of the above! It's not a haunted cinema at all, there is no ghost, and it's all a scam to exorcise her guilt over the actress' death. In a startling reversal, the heroine is being gaslit from start to finish as part of an elaborate scheme to drive her to sanity. Why then do the conspirators continue to act their roles in the charade when she's not around? Why indeed would someone with a longstanding dread of scary cinemas shoot a horror film in one and then sit there alone watching footage of the actress whose death she blames herself for and who she believes is out to get her from beyond the grave?
Mercifully, The Haunted Cinema has received no UK distribution, and watching it online dubbed into Russian (apparently by only two voiceover artists, male and female) with the original Chinese audio underneath is far from ideal. But it's the only way you can watch it if you want English subtitles - and they're not even very good subtitles, badly translated or transliterated and frequently whizzing by too fast to decipher. Even the "horror" sequences are barely adequate and the rest of it is just dull. To be honest I wouldn't have bothered with it if it hadn't been for the legitimate UK availability of The Haunted Cinema 2 (it doesn't look to be in any way connected, but it does appear to be a proper horror film) and rather wish I hadn't wasted the evening on it. Made in 2014.