Underrated Gems – The St. Francisville Experiment (2000)

Last week I began a series of articles covering poorly received horror films that I feel critics and general audiences to have gotten wrong. These films, while blasted by critics and viewers alike, have redeeming qualities that are often overlooked and/or forgotten about. It’s my moral obligation, however, to show you these films in a new light – and maybe even entice you to give the film another chance. This week’s film has been around for quite a while, though not many people have even heard of it. One of the earliest found footage films that attempted to capitalize on the success of The Blair Witch Project, this movie has, unfortunately, been lost among the heaping pile of films in the subgenre. Let’s change that, shall we? For your consideration, I give you The St. Francisville Experiment

This shitty trailer doesn’t do the movie justice. I promise.

The St. Francisville Experiment is a low-budget found footage film that centers around a group of college-aged adults who are given video cameras and an opportunity to spend the night in a haunted house and document what they find. The film begins with a frightening documentary style introduction to the house’s history, borrowing events from the true story of Delphine LaLaurie, a New Orleans serial killer infamous for torturing and murdering her household slaves. The recounted stories are horrific and set a foreboding tone throughout the rest of the film. The faux documentary continues as the group of adults are introduced to the viewer and to each other. After learning the rules of their overnight stay, the group is locked in the house, prepared to investigate. They find several strange things within the house almost immediately, with events becoming more unsettling and intense as the night progresses.

I was only nine years old when The St. Francisville Experiment was released on VHS and DVD. I’d seen The Blair Witch Project several times already and was never once frightened. For whatever the opinion of a nine year old boy is worth, this movie scared the shit out of me. I remember watching this in my family’s dark living room, my back to the open area of the kitchen and hallway behind me. I constantly had to turn around and make sure that nothing was attempting to sneak up on me. I miss those days. Borrowing heavily from Blair Witch‘s outstanding marketing campaign, Experiment was initially promoted as a real encounter with the supernatural, which was even more realistic to nine-year-old-me since the names of the film’s actors were not disclosed. I thought this film was real for several years of my young life, which is surely foolish, but it added to the fear. I revisited this film recently and I can honestly say that, though it’s certainly flawed and features a few iffy performances, it’s more than serviceable when you consider the shit-scraping low points of the found footage subgenre. The documentary style intro is terrifying, the house being investigated is downright scary, and the events that take place within the house would be enough to make grown Curt piss in his pants. Don’t expect anything groundbreaking. Just shut off your brain and let the fear flow through you. 

Rotten Tomatoes

Critics – 0%

Audience – 48% 

My score: 6.8 out of 10 

About Curt Oglesbee

I'm just a guy that loves to write and talk about movies.

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