Mr. Eddie Brewer is a paranormal investigator, a man whose job it is to investigate ghostly occurrences, and he has agreed to take part in a documentary for the Culture channel. A presenter and cameraman follow Eddie around on the job, occasionally interviewing those involved and attempting to capture actual footage of the paranormal. Their first stop is a small, suburban house where a mother and daughter claim to have been having trouble with a poltergeist. Eddie sets up a camcorder in the lounge and then he and the film crew travel to their next appointment: Rookery House, a broken-down Georgian building where strange noises have been heard coming from the basement.
The film, written and directed by the relatively new filmmaker Andrew Spencer, is shot primarily as a documentary, but interspersed with CCTV tapes of the office block and several objective fourth wall scenes, creating an intriguing cinematic collage of different mediums. ‘This is not a found footage film’, Andrew assured the audience firmly at the Q & A session afterwards, and it is really isn’t. Cleverly, the CCTV shows the audience a few scenes that neither Eddie nor the documentary team are aware of, adding an extra layer to the film’s well-crafted narrative.
In terms of scares (this is a horror festival, remember?), The Casebook of Eddie Brewer doesn’t really go in for shocks – this is no Paranormal Activity. There are no slamming doors, and only a few ghostly figures are glimpsed throughout – it’s more the atmosphere that’s unnerving. The walks through the empty, echoing basement and the mysterious hole in the wall make for a very uncomfortable watch; the audience is always expecting something shocking to happen when the lights turn off, or as the camera edges around a particularly dark corner (especially considering the film’s 18 rating), but nothing ever does, and that’s the problem. It’s very reminiscent of films like Blair Witch Project (yes, a predictable example), especially those scenes in the basement, and while Blair Witch might be a different kind of film, it’s certainly a better horror film.
Eddie Brewer, however, as a character is fantastic. Plagued by unexplained guilt (his wife, it is revealed early on in the film, died in a fire earlier that year) and constantly having to defend his profession and his dated techniques, the film offers a very complex character study, one that lead actor Ian Brooker has obviously worked hard to portray. Eddie is simply a very likeable man, one that the audience sticks with throughout, even in his angry or sulking moods. And while Eddie, rather ‘old school’ in his methods, is stubbornly averse to being called a ‘medium’, and even stresses repeatedly how he doesn’t charge for his services, it’s interesting to note that when a paid medium is actually brought into the building, the film starts to become a lot more exciting. Odd things start to happen; things that may have been staged by the medium himself, but work nonetheless, adding to the film’s carefully constructed atmosphere and were very well executed.
The Casebook of Eddie Brewer is a good, strong character study, and a subtle satire on TV shows like Most Haunted, yet it still leaves you feeling somewhat unsatisfied.