Ghosthunters (2016) Review

rsz_gh1Ghosthunters (2016) Review

Director: Pearry Reginald Teo

Starring: Francesca Santoro, Stephen Manley, David O’Donnell, Liz Fenning, Crystal Web.

Out now on UK DVD from High Fliers Films

“Ghost DNA.”

After Henry’s wife and daughter are murdered in an abandoned house used by a serial killer, he and his group of ghosthunters go back in to extract their souls. Henry (Stephen Manly) and his friends have been working on a machine to find and preserve ectoplasm. They were testing the machine at the site of the murders when everything went wrong. Now Henry and his cohorts face the angry victims of the serial killer. A serial killer who may not be done.

Well, it sounds okay in theory. And it’s certainly not the worst movie ever. It’s an Asylum film. So that right there should tell you a lot about Ghosthunters. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed. Ghosthunters manages to be a mediocre supernatural thriller. It has some fun special effects and creepy ghosts. The jump scares aren’t terribly effective, they pop up right about where expected, negating their effectiveness.

There is also a delightful amount of techno-babble the likes of which haven’t been heard since Star Trek went off the air. The techno-babble actually makes for a pretty hilarious scene of really terrible exposition about the ghost hunting machine. It’s basically a ghost trap from Ghostbusters. Don’t give it too much thought.

rsz_gh2Aside from the mediocre plot there is also plenty of mediocre characters performed by so-so actors. The good news is that no one is stand-out terrible. The problem is they are also stuck with a pretty ridiculous script. The most weighty role is given to Manly who does pretty good as the grief stricken Henry but could have brought a lot more personality to the role. Especially since one of the major twists hangs on his. David O’Donnell plays Henry’s friend and confidant Neal who built the ghost trapping machine. Neal also brings along his reporter girlfriend Amy played by Francesca Santoro, who is arguably the main character, but nothing in the movie indicates that fact. Then there is computer programmer Jessica played by Liz Fenning. Crystal Web plays the sadly under-utilized psychic Devon. No one has much character development and nothing more is known about the characters at the end of the film as was known in the beginning.

There are a lot of wasted opportunities in Ghosthunters too. Devon brings a knowledge of the occult to the “science” of paranormal investigating, and in a good scene that goes nowhere, she tries to trap the ghosts in the house using salt. The combination of the occult and science would have been a really interesting development. But the script slogs along with paint-by-number predictably.

The best thing about the film are possibly the props. The best prop in the entire movie is a pair of steampunk styled ghost spotting goggles. Second runner-up is a steampunk styled plague doctor mask worn by the killer. Sadly the ghost trapping machine itself is a bland jumble of spare parts that look like they could be anything. The rest of the special effects are okay, but not great. There is some CGI enhancement of the ghosts, but it looks like most of the effects were achieved practically. It’s not a special effect heavy film, probably due to budget constraints, and it manages with what it has. Over all Ghosthunters is pretty skippable.

gh3Kudos for: The organ music.

Lesson Learned: Say ghost DNA often enough and it just sounds silly.

5/10

Ghosthunters (2016) Review

Ghosthunters1Ghosthunters (2016)

Writer/Director: Pearry Reginald Teo

Starring: Francesca Santoro, Stephen Manley and David O’Donnell

Runtime: 90min

Synopsis (from IMDb): “When one of their own loses his wife and daughter at the hands of a serial killer, a team of ghost hunters is determined to capture the spirits of the loved ones so their spirits can finally rest in peace. But as the team goes deeper into the house, the ghosts become more hostile, and the group discovers the true secrets of the house and its murderer.”

Another title from the somewhat infamous production company The Asylum, one might be quick to assume this is another “mockbuster” tie-in to compete with the summer blockbuster Ghostbusters (2016). There is, however, a lot more on offer here than meets the eye, let us get hunting!

The film starts with a conversation between Dr. Henry Tanner (Stephen Manley) and Neal (David O’Donnell), prepping themselves before the enter the scene of the grizzly crimes committed by the Night Stalker serial killer, who dons a rather iconic looking plague doctor mask and is quite menacing to say the least. The rest of the crew arrive and they set up shop upstairs in the dilapidated old house. Henry goes on to explain the kind of research they will be carrying out, hoping to capture the ghosts of his wife and daughter who have been killed by the Night Stalker. Amy (Francesca Santoro), Neal’s girlfriend is a reporter and a sceptic, thinking the whole operation as a farce, yet still intrigued as to what they might find.

ghosthuntersscreenshot1Being decidedly darker and more of a drama than previous The Asylum productions, Ghosthunters is very refreshing in this regard. The performances are great given the relative experience of most of the cast. There is a wide breadth of horror elements too, a mixture of spooky ghosts, jump scares, psychological horror and more. The limited and claustrophobic location never feels boring and there are enough surprises in the old house to keep you on your toes. As the story progresses the sceptic becomes the medium in a bizarre yet entertaining twist of fate, what other secrets are yet to be unearthed?

Produced on a modest budget and a new direction for The Asylum, Ghosthunters is a fantastic example of how low budget doesn’t have to mean low quality. Being unceremoniously slated on IMDb with a measly 3.3/10 user score and a similar score on Rotten Tomatoes, with not even a single user review available is very disappointing and not representative of the final product itself. Not many people may want to invest in the lengthy runtime given the scores it has received. Rest assured I vouch for Ghosthunters, I was entertained from start to finish and remained engaged throughout, with some great twists and turns along the way for good measure. Pearry Teo did a really great job here with what was available.

ghosthuntersscreenshot2Overall, Ghosthunters is a solid paranormal horror, which is not a low budget rip off of its similarly named summer companion Ghostbusters. If you’re a fan of horror and are itching for something new and entertaining I would recommend you give Ghosthunters a watch.

Verdict: Ghosthunters isn’t a Bust

7.5/10

Ghosthunters!! The Stephen Manley Interview by Richard Martin

Stephen_ManleyGhosthunters!! The Stephen Manley Interview by Richard Martin

Hello readers, this was my interview with acting legend Stephen Manley. I spoke with him a week before I sent him some questions for him to answer ahead of the release of Ghosthunters (2016) this week from The Asylum. Now available on VOD (watch the trailer below). Hope you enjoy.

Richard Martin: Hi Stephen, we meet again in the written form, big day this week with the release of Ghosthunters (2016). How excited are you for the release and what can we expect from the film?

Stephen Manley: Hi Richard, hope your well mate ! Very excited indeed. attended the première of Ghosthunters Sunday with the wonderful cast : Francesca Santoro, Liz Henning, David O’Donnell, Phyllis Spielmann and Director Pearry Teo. I am pleased to say that the film looks great and I am so proud of everyone’s work, in front of the camera as well as behind. The film is a dark, brooding experience. A very serious, dramatic horror film. Very character driven and visually quite atmospheric. A new venture for The Asylum. I think it will be well received by the horror community.

Ghosthunters1RM: Ghosthunters (2016) looks to be a very serious release from the ladies and gents over at The Asylum, who are largely associated with “mockbusters” such as Sharknado (2013) what was it like working with them as an entity and with a talent such as Pearry Teo at the director’s chair?

SM: The Asylum is a great company and many in the crew had worked together on other Asylum projects. As such they worked like a well-oiled machine. As producer Dylan Vox said during a daily briefing and rally: “ No easy feat when working on smaller budget films everyone is doing a GREAT job..!” The crew was fantastic, all of them very skilled at what they do. From Production, Costume, Make-up and Art Dept., to Camera, Grip and Electric, they were wonderful to work with. With Pearry Teo commanding the ship they realized however that this was not a traditional Asylum “mockbuster”, but a unique film unto its own and therefore the crew was very enthusiastic for the chance to help Pearry’s ideas become a powerful film. So standards were very high.

RM: You mentioned to me last week how you prepared for this role, would you be willing to share with our readers the preparation it took to become Dr. Henry Tanner?

SM: Dr. Henry Tanner had suffered terrible loss and I needed to bring that element to my performance. My wife is a cancer survivor and we are 3 years in remission, so after discussing the realities of this with Pearry, we agreed to use the emotions to set a tone for Henry. The other thing I did was to sit in my grandfather’s mausoleum with him to prepare the monologues for my in person auditions/screen tests. How’s THAT for going “Method”…! Pearry loved that…! I also used the darkest, scariest room in the macabre house location to do my solo prep work when needed. Some of us actors do this weird stuff.

ghosthuntersscreenshot1RM: How much of your personal self and fears came to bear, to bring the character to the screen, and if this was in anyway therapeutic for you?

SM: It can get emotionally exhausting to keep the feelings at the surface for the duration of the shooting schedule. However, you need to be able to access these colors often at a moment’s notice. But I believe that is part of an actor’s art and craft. Over the years I have learned from many other artists that they go through the same process, be it painting, sculpture, writing , dance etc. I think that exploration is the only way to bring about an honest performance that connects with an audience and hopefully thus move them. Was it therapeutic……? I’m not sure….though I have been in therapy before…!!! But, there is a creative satisfaction that is achieved when an actor or actress can keep a character in touch and afloat believably. Like a magician who performs a successful “demonstration”, to quote Criss Angel.

RM: We’ve all experienced fear in our lives at some point in time, so do you feel that the rest of the cast tapped into their psyche or was it mostly just acting seen on screen?

SM: All of the cast came to the table and infused their characters with much depth. It is acting, but to be believable for a contemporary and critical audience, while playing the scenes and creating the moments, reality and fantasy can blur. One has stepped into a characters shoes and often, when you have done your homework, scenes can take you on a hell of a ride. And in a context such a Ghosthunters dealing with ghosts, loss, and the paranormal even more so..!! Francesca, Liz, Web, Phyllis and David appeared to me to be just as affected as I was. We strived to keep things believable and from falling into the easy trap of farce. But that is what makes for good theatre. If we did our job well under Pearry’s guidance, audiences should be moved by us.

ghosthuntersscreenshot2RM: The location of most of the film is a very eerie old house, you mentioned to me how you yourself became a ghost (at least for one member of the crew), a story a found very amusing, would you like to share with our readers?

SM: The House was a real Tudor/ gingerbread mansion, built circa 1903-1906 in the West Adams area of Los Angeles. No operating power or plumbing. The rooms inside were large, beautiful and decayed perfectly with help from the Art Dept. The little room that I used as my “office” to prep was a windowless pitch black, octagonal shaped study, sunken below the main floor and accessed by a few steps leading down to its door ….it felt like a tomb. As I was rehearsing my stuff deep in the blackness of the room I saw our lovely production asst. Shelby as she ran to and from the production office and passed the room’s open door. When during a pass, she heard “whispers” emanating from this scary black room she stopped, her jaw dropped open in horror as she peered into the blackness. I saw what was happening and slowly emerged into the light trying not to scare her. But to no avail as terror stricken she slowly backed up into the wall behind her and when she saw it was me came out with a deep closed throated : “ …Whoa,….oh god….” and made for the prod office completely bugged out. I saw her at the premiere and told her this event has made her famous as the story is getting around……!!!! She was delighted..!

Stephen_Manley_RuCo Photography_RM: Stephen, you’ve had a long career in the film industry, starting out as a child actor all the way up to now. What keeps you and has kept you motivated over the last 40 years in the business?

SM: The opportunity to play an ever increasing diversity of characters. I was told as a young actor that my “range” would open up for me as I got older. It took a bit longer than I had anticipated, but I am so grateful to have been able to do the work that I have been offered to tackle the last few years. And I hope, more to come.

RM: Is there any role you passed up that haunts you to this day?

SM: When I was a young teenager Bernardo Bertolucci offered me the role of Jill Clayburgh’s son in his film “La Luna (1979)” in which her character has sensitive albeit controversial and provocative themes with her son’s character. My suitcase was packed for Italy but for unknown bureaucratic reasons still unclear to me to this day, I was unable to commit to the film. To have worked with Mr. Bertolucci and Ms. Clayburgh would have been such an experience. Perhaps there is still time to have a Bertolucci film under my belt….!

Stephen_Manley_Nelson_Air_Plane_20160628_FB-6RM: Last question from me today, Guinness or Murphys?

SM: When I make it to the Emerald Isle let’s go to the pub and get a Murphy’s mate….!!! Thank you so much Richard. Cheers man.

Photos used with permission, photos by RuCo Photography

Ghosthunters – https://vimeo.com/ondemand/ghosthunters/166139658

Shout Outs To –

Pearry Teo @pearryteo ,Phyllis Spielman, David O’Donnell, Liz Fenning, Web Crystal, Anna Harr, Dylan Vox, David Michael Latt, Scotty Mullen and Francesca Santoro.

 

Brother (2016) Short Film Review

brother1Brother (Short 2016)

Writer/Director: Alrik Bursell

Producer: Jeff Kramer

Starring: Capone Lee, Dezi Soley and David O’Donnell

Runtime: 9min

Available: https://vimeo.com/160624111

Synopsis: An older brother is on the way to visit from out of town to meet his sister’s boyfriend. Tensions rise between the two, over what is right for Rebecca, who will come out on top?

Brother starts off with an interaction between Rebecca (Dezi Soley) and Lou (David O’Donnell. It is inferred Rebecca’s brother Chris (Capone Lee) is coming to visit to meet Lou, and for Lou to be on his best behaviour. Rebecca is head over heels for this guy but he is clearly a womaniser and not at all trustworthy we soon find out. An Australian living in the land of the free, you can see how easy it is for him to use his accent to his advantage.

brother3We are soon introduced to the aforementioned Chris, a big hulk of a man, protective of his younger sister; Lou would be wise to tow the line! I really don’t want to say much more by way of the plot as this is a great entertaining piece that is well acted with great pacing. The scenes between Chris and Lou are both cringy and hilarious, you really don’t know where the two are going to end up, but you know it’s not going to be pretty.

The cast are superb in their roles and do a very convincing job of getting me so quickly invested in their characters given the brief runtime. It was the air of mystery that really had me going, labelled as an “Independent Horror Short” with the light hearted nature of the whole thing I welling with anticipation for the horror to reveal itself, that is talented film making. Visuals are crisp and well-polished, the production quality is up to a great standard.

brother2No film is perfect however, as there were a few blemishes along the way, but the overall quality of the whole more than makes up for these minor flaws, that aren’t really worth nitpicking.

I really haven’t much more to say only than go and watch Brother for great little treat.

Verdict: Big Brother is Watching You

8.9/10