This isn’t a new film, but it doesn’t seem to have had the widest of releases.
I myself saw it a few weeks ago at the excellent Southend-on-Sea horror film festival, Horror-on-Sea. In the one day I attended of the three-day celebration of scary films (both short and feature-length) this was the standout gem as far as I was concerned.
It’s a British film, which is always nice to see when a home-grown offering really impresses. And it’s also a hybrid-found-footage film, melding standard found-footage with third-person shooting — which might seem strange, given some of my previous pronouncements on found-footage.
But when it’s good, it’s good.
The plot revolves around the titular Eddie Brewer, a paranormal investigator in the West Midlands, being tailed by a documentary crew. The cameras follow him investigating two cases: a little girl’s imaginary friend who is pushing the bounds of imaginary, and a series of apparitions in a council-owned eighteenth century mansion.
The subject matter has been done before, and on bigger budgets. It brings to mind, for example, The Last Exorcism and Red Lights, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. So Eddie Brewer isn’t taking an exactly original plot direction.
But what it does have, and have in droves, is atmosphere. The image has the quality of small-scale filmmaking, and the settings — the mansion in particular — are just dark and claustrophobic enough that to bring the tension to life. Bare walls, flickering lights (which aren’t, apparently, a cliche when used sparingly), and ominous dark tunnels are the perfect setting for a ghost story.
Ian Brooker, as Eddie, is a big part of the success. He is completely believable as the classic “want to believe” character, haunted by grief at the death of his wife, and pursued by dogmatic sceptics. When the sinister force behind both hauntings begins to reveal itself, the slightly dishevelled Eddie is of course the only person who is listening.
It is, essentially, a demonstration of what can be done with time, effort, and a few talented people. The Casebook of Eddie Brewer really does put a lot of big budget competitors to shame.
The smaller budget does show up, but it is only an occasional thing. Indeed, the only scene which looked “cheap” to me was one where a woman creeps past Eddie in the mansion basement. It wasn’t anything particular, but there was a subtle shift in the picture quality, which made it look a little like it was being recorded by a student on a phone. That was, though, the only real time that I was aware I wasn’t watching Hollywood produce.
What I did appreciate, a lot, was that it didn’t over-explain. Everything was subtle, the metaphors worked into the life of the film’s subject. Part of this is down to Eddie’s sheer likeability, but part is also that it’s a whole-of-life approach. We see the cases which aren’t ghosts, as well as the cases which
are might be — for example when a “ghost” turns out to be a cannabis growing operation next door.
This was a very enjoyable, and actually scary film in parts. A real antidote to negative ideas of what independent films can be. The Casebook of Eddie Brewer was a surprisingly good watch, and one which deserves all the exposure that other bigger budget films get without a fraction of the effort which has gone into this film.