• Reducing the found-footage genre to its barest elements, as three young people bring video cameras into an abandoned insane asylum and capture their adventure with dim lighting and muddy sound
• Introducing multiple old myths and legends early in the movie, then paying only some of them off, as the characters roam through the asylum and encounter graffiti and images that sort of call back to the setup
• Trapping the audience with three protagonists who are as unfocused as the story, changing practically from scene to scene as the ghosts of dead crazy people influence their behavior
• Ending enigmatically, because what the hell else could it do?
Defenders: Director/co-writer/actor Sean Stone, co-writer/actor Alexander Wraith, and actress Antonella Lentini
Tone of commentary: Rambling and crazily credulous. Stone says he got the idea for Greystone Park when he first met Wraith, who had spent several years exploring abandoned hospitals and asylums with his friends. They bonded over the idea of “this realm of shadows,” and discussed how exciting it would be to shoot a movie guerilla-style in “a place full of spirits.” (Speaking to the existence of ghosts, Stone says, “I had a conception that they might be real, but I had no personal experience.”) Just like Greystone Park itself, Stone and Wraith aren’t always coherent in explaining themselves; there’s a lot of non-specific, “Hey remember that time?” that’s often unrelated to what’s actually on the screen. It does come across that they were creeped out by their experiences during the shoot, even if little of that is evident in the actual movie.
The trio also talks a lot—and apparently not in a “playing a part for the sake of the movie” kind of way—about how making Greystone Park must’ve awakened the dead. They claim that they had stones thrown at them by mysterious forces, and that one time they heard a phantom gunshot and then saw glass shatter and blood spurt. For her part, Lentini noticed that her phone battery drained abruptly. (“You’ll find that a lot,” Stone says.) Even mentioning what the movie was about to friends apparently brought down a plague of haunting. “Just by hearing it, they’d have shadows in their car,” Stone says. “By talking about it, by motivating it, you energize these spirits.” The whole experience strengthened Stone’s faith, he says over the closing credits, adding that only God can protect people from the unknown.
What went wrong: Given that Stone and his cronies insist that much of what they shot was “real,” it’s probably significant that an early scene at a dinner party includes shots of the cast smoking from a hookah pipe. According to these three, though, any problems they faced with the shoot were due to their excessive awesomeness, not any kind of intoxicant. Wraith praises Stone by saying that a lot of filmmakers might talk about taking a video camera to an abandoned insane asylum, but, “Nobody actually has the cojones to be like, ‘Y’know what? Let’s go. Tomorrow.’”
For his part, Stone admired that Wraith was so into his role that it was hard to tell sometimes whether he was acting or whether he was really terrified. (Wraith confesses that he worried about that, because he didn’t want to be “the boy who cried wolf,” in case he encountered real danger.) And Lentini thinks they were all very brave to be walking around in places that were so plainly haunted. “You really feel like you are going insane when that portal opens,” she says. “We were just like these electric energies absorbing this other world.”
The downside to the team’s “Go for it!” approach? One time they were stopped by the cops for driving around without seatbelts (or proper driver’s licenses, though the police didn’t notice that). Also, they had to call for lunch a little early one day because Wraith was possessed for about half an hour. Hey, it happens.
Comments on the cast: Stone’s father Oliver—himself a filmmaker of some repute—appears in the early dinner-party scene, and ad-libs a ghost story that Stone says left everyone “mesmerized.” (“He was on-point. Three takes and we got him out of there.”) Oliver Stone also offered his son this bit of criticism on the casting of his ex-wife for a brief cameo: “I don’t think your mother looks like a Jersey woman.”
Inevitable dash of pretension: Throughout the commentary, Stone and company are as free-associative as their movie. Stone points out a Medusa motif, which prompts them all to babble about how women wield beauty as a twisted kind of power. (“Isn’t the saying that the more beautiful you are, the more messed up you are?” Lentini muses.) They compare Stone’s character to “the Apollo light” and Wraith’s to “the trickster.” (“He’s a little bit mad, but he’s an explorer,” Stone says of Wraith.) They ask—but pointedly choose not to answer—questions about what’s actually happening in the movie, and they suggest that the reason Greystone Park is so scattershot is because Stone was trying to let the audience fill in the gaps, to activate something in their “third eye.” Ultimately, Stone pinpoints the main idea of the film as, “Time itself is morphic.” People with third eyes will understand what that means.
Commentary in a nutshell: When Lentini talks about how labyrinthine the asylum halls were, Stone says, “There’s a danger I think, of losing your mind inside these kind of places. Once you get lost, and the energy starts to overcome you, you know, there really is a danger of possession. And we’ve seen that, obviously, multiple times.” To which Lentini interjects, “Oh, I actually got possessed.”