Studio: The Asylum
Director: Pearry Teo
Writer: Pearry Teo
Producer: David Michael Latt
Stars: Francesca Santoro, Stephen Manley, David O¡¯Donnell, Liz Fenning, Web Crystal
A paranormal researcher brings a team to the site of his wife and daughter¡¯s murder to capture physical evidence of ghosts.
Given that notorious name-hitchhiker The Asylum timed its release to coincide with the ballyhooed 2016 reboot, you¡¯d be forgiven for guessing ¡°Ghosthunters¡± might be a ¡°Ghostbusters¡± mockbuster. It isn¡¯t. It is, however, no less dismissible than one of those same-sounding knockoffs luring gullible grandmas from their purgatory of checkout line obscurity.
Clad in a 17th-century plague doctor disguise, masked murderer ¡°The Night Stalker¡± prepares a captive wife and daughter for death by turning on a crackling old phonograph perched above a bloody children¡¯s doll. These excessive theatrics make even less sense when the climax reveals the man¡¯s identity and true motive, but the movie doesn¡¯t bother concocting an original moniker for its serial killer, so no use expecting his lair to be decorated in anything other than clich¨¦s.
The woman¡¯s husband and the young girl¡¯s father is Henry, a paranormal researcher who, with the help of his partners Neal and Jessica, has built a machine capable of capturing ghosts. Over Neal¡¯s objections, Henry wants to take their experimental apparatus into the home where his wife and daughter died to see if they can¡¯t make ectoplasm out of presumed paranormal energy.
We learn the above thanks to lines like, ¡°your wife and daughter died in that place¡± and ¡°Neal, we built a machine to capture ghosts.¡± Subtle exposition is not exactly the script¡¯s strong suit. To be fair, the script doesn¡¯t have any strong suits.
Built from a carbon-copied template of tropes and seeming indifference from the filmmakers, ¡°Ghosthunters¡± is a struggle to sit through. Less than four minutes into the movie, I pressed Pause for the first time and second-guessed my choice for the evening¡¯s entertainment. I would hit that button again more times than can be recalled as, I kid you not, it took almost a full 24 hours to finally finish this 90-minute movie.
I want to preface the remainder of this review by expressing that ¡°Ghosthunters¡± is ¡°not that bad.¡± It¡¯s not ¡°good¡± either, but what I mean to imply is that it is not the type of poorly made effort that inspires insulted anger, frustration, sadness, or any real emotional response at all. ¡°Ghosthunters¡± is simply so apathetic about itself, you can¡¯t help but feel the same way about it.
Seven minutes in and I¡¯m staring at TV-style cinematography washing exteriors in so much light, some faces don¡¯t have shadows. Meanwhile, overdramatic music played underneath sounds like it has an equal chance of being an original composition or stock library filler. I again wonder if continuing with the remaining 83 minutes is a smart investment of time.
15 minutes more and there is a nonsensical montage of standard ¡°scary¡± imagery including blood running down a drain, writhing maggots, and someone screaming. Other supposed spooks include television static, an empty chair rocking, a bloody hand smearing a window as someone dies on the other side, and waking suddenly from enough nightmares that at least one character must have an uncontrollable case of narcolepsy. At this point, and I say this in absolute seriousness, the basket of laundry sitting in my eyeline is handily beating the movie in a battle for my attention and I pause for the umpteenth time to fold a few t-shirts.
Another ten minutes of the movie goes by and an actress overplays her emotional state by repeatedly blubbering incoherently. Her performance borders on comical, although not as comical as the strange portrayal of Henry by actor Stephen Manley. Manley¡¯s hair and unshaven face are styled wildly and he wears a persistently perplexed expression as though the character is intended to be a suicidal vagrant. I¡¯m at the halfway point now and thinking, even if I finish the film, do I want to then spend additional time writing a full-length critique?
Ultimately, I chose to cross home plate because, while by no means spectacular, director Pearry Teo¡¯s previous films ¡°Dracula: The Dark Prince¡± (review here) and ¡°The Curse of Sleeping Beauty¡± (review here) had sincere edges of originality in their conception and production design, and I was curious to see Teo¡¯s continued creative evolution as a genre filmmaker. Unfortunately, ¡°Ghosthunters¡± is a disappointing dip into dullness for the director. Production value is ok, albeit movie-of-the-week quality. But the story is so lazy and the acting tuned so carelessly high that the final film reads as a passionless rush job with no memorable merit to speak of.
To put it in wrestling terminology, ¡°Ghosthunters¡± is a ¡°jobber.¡± It has the entry-level experience, basic techniques, and an average enough appearance to make it inside the squared circle for a match, yet it will never wear a belt or have an action figure made in its image. It is designed to fill a space on the bottom of the booking card, lay down on the mat for a quick three count, and then disappear entirely from the record books as though having never existed in the first place.
Review Score: 25