"This film is cursed," says Zak Bagans at the start of his new feature-length documentary horror film. Zak is best known as the host of the Travel Channel's 'Ghost Adventures', now he takes on a haunted house, which he describes as "the next Amityville".
'Demon House' is written and directed by Zak and is based around the story of the Ammons haunting, a case of demon possession that made international news a few years back. The very dramatic 90-minute film is presented as fact, but of course, so was 'The Blair Witch Project'.
In 2011, Latoya Ammons appeared in news reports after claiming that her rented home in Gary, Indiana was haunted. The family claimed they witnessed paranormal activity including disembodied footsteps, dark shadows, poltergeist activity, and levitation.
As things worsened for the Ammons family, they turned to the local catholic church for help, the priest confirmed the house was haunted and performed several unsuccessful exorcisms in an attempt to help the family and clean the house, which by this time was being described as "a portal to Hell."
After a clairvoyant told the family that the house was haunted by no less than 200 individual demons, the activity started to escalate to a point where Latoya's son was allegedly possessed. This resulted in Latoya calling 911 and the boy being taken to hospital, where medical staff and members of the family witnessed him walk backward up a wall.
When the Ammons' story broke, Zak who has starred in 'Ghost Adventures' since 2008, was filming an episode in California, but straight away purchased the haunted house. Over the next three years he lead a team of paranormal investigators to try to validate the claims of the paranormal activity.
But Zak, who has previously conducted more that 1,000 paranormal investigations, got more than he had bargained for in Gary. He called it "the case that really f**ked me up."
His film starts out with the backstory of the case, as well as interviews with eye witnesses from the local police force, the local priest, and members of the Ammons family.
During the filming strange things started to happen to the crew. Zak had random outbursts of aggression and violent behaviour. Some of the crew became ill, or quit mid-production, never to speak to Zak again. And most unsettling, some of those involved in the case attempted suicide and were even murdered.
Zak calls in Dr Barry Taff, who was famously involved in the Doris Bither case, the basis of the 1981 movie, 'The Entity'. Dr Taff tests the house for unusual electromagnetic and geomagnetic energy, and while the house comes up clean , he picks up odd spikes of EM that coincide with Zak's moments of aggression.
The documentary ends in just as a dramatic way as it starts, with Zak tearing down the house to stop it harming anyone else. This seems mad, especially as near the start of the film he said that squatters had moved in and it "took some convincing to get them to leave."
So, clearly those squatters were quite happy living in the house, so surely others would be happy to live there too. After all, the Amityville house, which this case has been likened to, still exists as a family home. The house that was the location of the famous Enfield poltergeist has also been lived in quite happily for four decades since the haunting.
I think it's far more likely that the property was demolished due to its poor condition. At one point in the film we're told that the house has issues with mould, carbon monoxide and other health hazards. Although the house was flattened, Zak kept the staircase to the basement, an area of the house which features heavily in the film due to its connection with satanic rituals. It is now on display at Zak's Haunted Museum in Las Vegas.
It's hard to tell if this is a case of mass hysteria and that those involved in the documentary actually believe that what happened during the filming was real, or whether this is nothing more than a work of fiction, based on the story of Ammons family.
The film is widely described as a "pseudo-documentary," a film or video production that takes the form or style of a documentary film but does not portray real events. Either way, it's an entertaining watch.
Dr. Taff described the case as fascinating, but questioned Zak's documentary style, "in my professional opinion, Zak's film somewhat glossed over the real substance of this extraordinary case and chose to repeatedly talk of demons. While that orientation is interesting, it doesn't in any way help us learn more about what was really going on at this location and how the occurrences transpired It would't been interesting to have spent much more time there doing some detailed electromagnetic and geomagnetic mapping of the area, but that wouldn't taken weeks of time."