“The Rohl Farms Haunting” is a found footage horror film directed and written by Cordero Roman. The film follows a filmmaker creating a documentary about his friend’s life on a farm. While filming the documentary disturbing events take place leading the two friends to believe that the farm may in fact be haunted.
The Rohl Farms Haunting opens with an on screen message that sets up the remainder of the film, “In the summer of 2012, Cordero Roman and Luke Rohl, both 21 years old, went missing while filming a documentary on Ellsworth, Wisconson. Two weeks after their disappearance, a DVD with the words ‘PLAY ME’ written on it was sent anonymously to the Pierce County Police Station in Ellsworth. What you are about to see is the unaltered content of that DVD.”
At the onset of the film we learn that the found footage that’s playing out on screen is filmed by character Cordero Roman, who is played by real life director/writer Cordero Roman. As part of the documentary, Cordero interviews his film crew that are taking part in the making of the documentary, including his (real life) brother Rico (Rico Roman) and girlfriend Deb (Deborah Roman). Cordero also interviews several of Luke Rohl’s friends and family to setup the documentary. Based on several on-screen discussions between Cordero and Luke, it’s established that Cordero is an amateur filmmaker that is currently in film school.
It’s at this time that we’re introduced to Luke Rohl (played by Luke Rohl), who is the sole proprietor and operator of Rohl Farms, a local dairy farm. Luke took over the farm following the recent passing of both of his parents. Luke comes across as a non-assuming person who is overwhelmed with the grief of losing his parents and having the responsibilities of managing their small farm. There are hints dropped that Cordero is creating this documentary, in part, to bring some notoriety to Luke that will perhaps improve his position in life.
The shooting of the documentary starts simply enough, with Luke providing a tour of the farm facilities and ending with a walkthrough of his rundown farmhouse. At the end of the first night of filming, at precisely 11:55 PM, Luke and Cordero hear a knock at the door of Luke’s house. When Luke goes to answer the door, he finds the door propped open and no one to be found. During subsequent evenings of filming all at precisely 11:55 PM, the same distinctive knock is heard followed by other strange occurrences and sightings on Luke’s property.
Cordero is convinced the farm is haunted, and is excited by the opportunity to change the emphasis of his documentary into an investigation of this seemingly paranormal activity. An already stressed out Luke is unconvinced of Cordero’s assertions, believing what their witnessing is actually the result of trespassers playing a game. Regardless of the cause, Luke and Cordero are completely unprepared for what’s happening on Rohl Farms, as their seemingly innocent documentary transforms into an all-out horror film.
Found Footage Cinematography
The found footage cinematography employed in The Rohl Farms Haunting is performed well, coming across as filmed by someone who knows how to operate a camera, which aligns with the fact that Cordero is studying to be a professional filmmaker. Nuances that add to the credibility of the cinematography are scenes where Cordero adjusts the camera brightness and verbalizes what he’s doing – this is an activity a novice filmmaker may articulate out loud, whereas a seasoned veteran would simply make the camera adjustments without thinking (or saying anything).
Also noteworthy is the chaotic cinematography used when Cordero is placed under stress or running. An average person would not take the time to keep the camera level while running or being stalked. While the cinematography is good, there are several scenes where the character Cordero films through open windows and walking around when he knows there’s someone or something is after him – in these scenes, his focus on filming is not fully convincing. Despite these challenges, the found footage cinematography is well done.
Found Footage Purity
Feeding off of the good cinematography, the found footage purity for The Rohl Farms Haunting is close enough to perfect to receive a perfect score. All of the scenes are shot using cameras within the universe of the film and there’s nothing overtly apparent, such as incidental music or other artifacts, suggesting that the film is anything but actual found footage.
The filming reason, which defines why a feature length’s worth of found footage exists, is well defined for the film. The filming reason does not score as high as the cinematography and found footage purity as there are scenes that bring into question why Cordero, who knows he’s in danger, is focused on filming. There is one such scene where Cordero is outside and being chased or stalked by something or someone, and filming with the camera spotlight on in the dead of night makes Cordero a shining beacon for anyone searching for him. Despite these deviations, the filming reason is still very good.
Acting and Plot
All of actors in this film play characters of the same namesake. Luke Rohl (as Luke Rohl) does an exceptional job playing the overworked, over-tired, and grief-stricken farmer doing everything he can to keep his farm operating despite the distractions presented during the film. Cordero Roman performs well in the role of the cinematographer (both actual and character) and has good synergy with Luke Rohl. However, there are several key scenes delivered by Cordero where the dialog comes across as not entirely convincing, particularly in early scenes where he discusses with Luke the strange knocking on Luke’s door. Rounding out the acting, the supporting cast perform admirably in their respective roles as family and friends during the brief documentary interview portions of the film – the story and character development could have benefited by more of these interviews early in the film.
The plot is rather straight forward, effectively maintaining the mystery of the true nature of the threat befalling the protagonists until the latter part of the film. While the story is generally good, the pacing of The Rohl Farms Haunting is slow at times, which impacts the overall immersion or entertainment value of the film. Despite these issues, the film does a great job at establishing tense scenes, creating a true sense of anticipation and danger for the protagonists.
To the film’s credit, The Rohl Farms Haunting sets up all of the “bad” things that befall the protagonists to take place off-screen, implying their fate using dialog, sound, and the context of the story to sell the premise. This film proves that CGI and on-screen practicals are not necessarily needed to effectively deliver a climatic ending.