Saturday, March 10, 2018
my thoughts on.... 'Ghost House'
As with all of my reviews of films for The Creepercast, I fully recommend that you check each and every one of them out. I am one man and this is my opinion. I've seen plenty of movies that received reviews that were the complete opposite of how I saw the film. These writers, directors, producers and actors all put a lot of time and love into these projects. They deserve to be seen and appreciated for what they are. Everyone has a dream and I fully support the people that take the time to make theirs a reality. With that being said....
I think Scout Taylor-Compton is an underrated actress. There, I said it. Ever since I saw her in Rob Zombie's 2007 'Halloween', I kind of fell in love. (not in the creepy way) After both installments in that series, I tracked her career and watched whatever she put out. Some were good, some were not so good, but I just enjoyed watching her work. She kind of fell off my radar for a while until I heard about an upcoming film called 'Ghost House'. It seemed to be a kind of Asian horror type film, but not a reboot or a true import. This was an American film that takes place in Thailand. When it finally dropped on Netflix, I was ready. This is a Scout vehicle, as she's in the drivers seat and the leading lady. That fact alone made it worth my time, but I was surprised at how good this ended up being. It isn't reinventing the wheel in any way and won't make anybody's 'Top 13' lists for this year, but it was above average and very well done. It certainly takes its cues from films like 'The Grudge' and 'The Ring', because it heavily relies on the curse angle for the main protagonist. As the story goes, if you disturb one of the ghost houses, you're in for some trouble. In this case, a spirit named Watabe is the one that's on the war path. Out to haunt the hell out of Scout, until she eventually takes over her soul within three days time. On that note, let's hop into the plot.
Julie (played by Scout Taylor-Compton) and Jim (played by James Landry Hébert) are a young couple in love. They travel to Thailand on a little adventurous get away. Julie is a photographer and finds a strange fascination with the ghost houses she sees around the town. The legend goes that they are a place to leave things to keep the residing ghosts happy, so they don't haunt your home. After coming back to their hotel, they run into a couple of European gentleman who offer to take them out on the town. During the course of the evening, one of them offers to take Julie out to a remote area to show her a ghost house they found that they're sure she'll be interested in photographing. What Julie doesn't know, is that they plan on replacing a friend of theirs for her, as the focus of the vengeful spirit, Watabe. As soon as they ditch them at the site, Julie immediately becomes ill and they call their happy go lucky driver, GoGo (played wonderfully by Michael S. New). He knows exactly what's happening and rushes her to a nearby village to be seen by the locals, who know how to handle this kind of thing. They call in a shaman, to which Jim thinks they just need to get her to a hospital. When they finally get back to the hotel, things start to go from bad to worse and before long, they realize what's happen and have to make a terrible choice. Do they keep trying to rid her of Watabe or pass her along to another hapless victim, only to continue to the cycle anew?
What's enjoyable about this film, is that it's not trying to say anything new or different. It knows what it is and plays to its strengths. Too many times, when a film maker is dabbling in a genre that has already been done to death, they try to hard to give it some kind of a twist that isn't necessary. In 'Ghost House', I didn't feel like I was seeing that movie. It was just giving a 100% of what the audience wanted and would expect from this kind of story. Directed by Rich Ragsdale, this is his first foray into the feature length film genre and I must say he jumped in both feet first. Having been known primarily as a short film director, it has to be hard to make that transition to an hour and a half piece from where he's most comfortable. It's a different kind of story telling. Almost like the difference between writing a comic strip vs writing a novel. There is no quick payoff in a punchline, but in the full length format you have to build characters and keep a consistent tone throughout. Adapted from a story written by Rich and his brother Kevin, they created two fairly sympathetic and realistic characters and gave us a decent antagonist. Watabe is more than just your average naughty ghost. She's been wronged and is out for revenge. Again, nothing new, but she feels a bit more.... gritty for some reason. I should also mention a fun minor character named Reno (played by the always delightful Mark Boone Junior). He's kind of the ultimate lynch pin in the story and a guy that's kind of unlikable in a likable way. He doesn't really move the story all the way to its eventual conclusion, but he's a fun little pit stop that hangs around until the bitter end.
In a horror world full of ghost stories, I don't see too many that leave any kind of last impression with me. For my tastes, I'm more interested in a homicidal slasher or something more reality based in order to set my teeth on edge. So for this film to stand out among the others, there must be something more to it. Perhaps it's simply the Scout factor? But even if that's the case this still was well worth my time to invest in it. I'd give it a very solid 3 out of 5 stars. It isn't going to set the world on fire, but it was an enjoyable detour on a road that's very well traveled. I'm only hoping that it will strike a chord with other directors to see Scout as a viable commodity and a scream queen on the rise. She's capable of so much more than just horror, but this is certainly her wheelhouse and I always enjoy seeing her work. If you've got some spare time and want to see something that's fun to watch alone in the dark, then 'Ghost House' might just be the next thing you should watch in your queue. It may even save your life. I mean, the next time you're in Thailand and want to start messing around with one of the ghost houses, it may make you think twice about your life decisions.
If you like this, check out: 'The Grudge' (2004), 'The Ring' (2002) or 'Dark Water' (2005)