Movie Marathon: The Bad Ben Trilogy

Bad Ben (2016)badben

  • Director: Nigel Bach
  • Writer: Nigel Bach
  • Main Cast: Nigel Bach

Tom Riley buys a house at a Sheriff’s sale for a great deal, but as soon as he moves in things start to get weird: furniture moving by itself, unexplainable noises and shadows. The extensive surveillance system in the house captures it all, and Tom realises that he’s definitely got more than he bargained for.

Steelmanville Road (2017)steelmanvilleroad

  • Director: Nigel Bach
  • Writer: Nigel Bach
  • Main Cast: Jessica Partridge, Christopher Partridge

A prequel to Bad Ben, this film explains what happened to the previous owners and who…or what…lurks in the house on Steelmanville Road.

Badder Ben: The Final Chapter (2017)badderben

  • Director: Nigel Bach
  • Writer: Nigel Bach
  • Main Cast: Nigel Bach, Jacquie Baker, Matthew Schmid

A documentary crew – complete with a psychic – return to Steelmanville Road after Tom Riley’s disappearance to investigate the mysteries of the property.

‘Who is going to want to watch a 50 year old bald, fat guy walking around his house, getting the crap kicked out of him by malevolent spirits?’

I think the multifaceted Nigel Bach neatly sums up his low budget – high entertainment Bad Ben trilogy in the question above (from The Making of the Bad Ben Trilogy documentary) – I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch that?! This work is clearly a labour of love, and it paid off. This is a really enjoyable, easy-to-watch series of films. If you do watch and enjoy the series, I’d recommend the 30 minute Making Of… to round out the experience. All three films and the documentary are currently available on Amazon Prime.

Bad Ben was made for $300, and features only the Director/Writer Nigel Bach on screen – it was a last ditch attempt to get his movie made after the cast dropped out at the last minute. These challenges are actually what makes the film so original. The lack of frills and Bach’s down-to-earth character makes everything seem more realistic, and the single character isolated within the house creates a feeling of claustrophobia, all of which ramps up the tension. It is refreshing and entertaining to see a freaked out, middle-aged bloke approaching a haunting with sarcasm and grumpiness, as opposed to your stereotypical Hollywood beauty screaming hysterically every time something goes bump in the night.

Steelmanville Road – a prequel to Bad Ben – is probably the weakest of the trilogy. What Bad Ben lacked by way of budget, it made up for in originality, humour and charm, which isn’t so apparent in the more serious Steelmanville Road. An attractive young couple move into a haunted house and are terrorised by unknown forces – it’s a story that has been done many times, and Steelmanville Road does feel rather like a parody of Paranormal Activity in places. The most important thing about this film is that it sets up the sundry plot points of Bad Ben, but a number of key elements – the drawing, the burial, chains in the basement – are unfortunately squeezed into the last five minutes of the film, in a bit of a hurry. That said, Bach manages another solid film on a tight budget, and there are some effective jump scares – it just lacks ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ of the first and third films. As Bach comments himself in the Making Of… documentary: ‘You didn’t hate the prequel, you just wanted more Bad Ben’. That pretty much hits the nail on the head.

In the third and final part of the trilogy, a documentary crew try to make sense of the Steelmanville Road story in Badder Ben. This sequel aligns more closely with Bad Ben in tone, and definitely benefits from *slight spoiler alert* Nigel Back being back in front of the camera as well as behind it! The other members of the cast are likeable and talented as well. This is decidedly a comedy-horror, with the emphasis on the comedy, but is great fun to watch and a nice way to wrap up the Steelmanville Road / Bad Ben story.

I started Bad Ben at around 9pm and felt the need to marathon straight through to Steelmanville Road and then on to Badder Ben. As I write up my notes for this blog post – a couple of months after actually watching the series – I find myself wanting to go back and marathon it all over again. Surely good signs! I look forward to seeing what Bach does next.

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