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

The Curse of Sleeping Beauty (2016) Review

cotsb1The Curse of Sleeping Beauty (2016)

Starring: Ethan Peck, India Eisley, Natalie Hall

Writers: Josh Nadler and Pearry Reginald Teo, based on the comic book by Everette Hartsoe, inspired by the story ‘Little Briar Rose’, first anthologized in print form by Jacob and Wilhem Grimm.

Director: Pearry Reginald Teo

ON UK DVD NOW from Lionsgate

The fairy tale was only the beginning…

The Curse of Sleeping Beauty begins by introducing us to Thomas, played ably by Ethan Peck (Eden, Nothing Left to Fear, Mine Games). Thomas is plagued by a recurring dream where he finds himself kissing the sleeping beauty that is Briar Rose, played by the stunning India Eisley (Nanny Cam, Underworld: Awakening and The Secret Life of the American Teenager). I’ll be honest here and admit, if I had dreams about kissing India Eisley, I’d likely consider myself very fortunate.

However, Thomas does not perceive himself as being fortunate. He’s an artist – a tortured artist to be exact – and he’s very reclusive. He is so reclusive that Thomas’s psychotherapist is seen early on in the film, telling him that this inability to interact socially with people is the reason why he needs psychotherapy. Thomas doesn’t have much to say to the psychotherapist’s comments.

Things seem to get worse when he learns that a distant uncle has recently committed suicide, although there is a bright side: Thomas has been bequeathed the family’s ancestral mansion. However, on the downside, he’s also inherited a family curse.

The story is based loosely around the classic Grimm fairy tale Briar Rose, which we know today as Sleeping Beauty. It’s also easy to see the inspiration that’s come from Everette Hartsoe’s bold lines and his strong accentuation of Briar Rose’s sexual allure in the comic books of that name. India Esisley’s exotic costumes, and her representation of submissive desirability, share strong parallels with the content of Hartsoe’s comic book appropriation of this story.

cotsb2I quite liked Thomas as a character because he comes across as being wholly relatable. He’s given a chance to inspect the home he’s been bequeathed and, although it has a glamorous exterior, he finds the dusty interior, with rooms filled with naked mannequins, to be something of a disappointment. Or, as he puts it, “This place is a shithole.”

And it’s those mannequins that keep giving the film some of its strongest shock moments. There is something absurdly sinister about the plastic pretence of life .Thomas gets to meet the house’s realtor, Natalie Hall, (True Blood, Star Crossed, Pretty Little Liars) and the pair eventually develop a working relationship whilst trying to resolve some of the mansion’s many mysteries.

Alone in the mansion on his first night there, Thomas beds down and, once again, he dreams of kissing the beautiful, Briar Rose. This time, his kiss wakens her and the story begins to pick up pace. The other major character in the film is Richard, Brian Davison (X-Men, Knight Rider, Ghost Whisperer). Richard saves Linda and Thomas from a shocking twist of events in the mansion by turning up at the exact moment when he’s required. As he’s driving them away from the incident, Linda performs introductions.

“Richard is an expert in supernatural phenomenon, specifically demonic,” she tells Thomas. “Well, paranormal cleric,” Richard corrects modestly. “I perform rituals sanctified by the paranormal community and catholic church, to name a few.”

Thomas glances from Richard to Linda and gives a sceptical smile before saying, “Great.” Aware of the unspoken doubts being expressed, Richard genially asks, “So what were you running from?”

cotsb3It’s a strong script. The acting throughout this one is of a high standard with a quality cast demonstrating genuine ability. The cinematography is cleverly deceptive with ‘reality’ being filmed in the smoky blue-greys of a dreamy dusk, and the dream sequences being shot in the obscene brightness of wide awake equatorial noon. It’s also fair to say that the special effects are sufficiently striking to startle and unsettle.

Definitely worth checking out: 8/10.