Stars: Stephen Manley, David O’Donnell, Liz Fenning, Francesca Santroro, Crystal Web, Phyllis Spielman, Kjai Block, Kim Shannon, Kris Marconi, Anna Harr | Written and Directed by Pearry Teo
“Don’t follow too close.”
When his wife and daughter fall victim to a Jigsaw-like serial killer by the name of The Night Stalker, Henry (Stephen Manley) has only one thing on his mind – to return to the scene of the crime and begin plotting his revenge. Yeah, that’s not true at all. In fact, you couldn’t be further from the truth! Upon finding that the killer is in fact dead, Henry actually wants to return to the Night Stalker’s torture mansion (that sounds quite pathetic doesn’t it? I could have worded it much better, but oh well!) to see if he can locate and make contact with the spirits of his wife and daughter. Seems a little farfetched? Well, Henry is a paranormal expert so any opportunity is a good one, especially when family is involved. He enlists the help of his team members Neal (David O’Donnell) and Jessica (Liz Fenning). Unbeknownst to him the pair decide to invite their girlfriends; amateur reporter Amy (Francesca Santroro) and occultist expert Devon (Crystal Web). Initially angered by their inclusion, he slowly warms to them when their expertise both practical and paranormal begin to aid him in the task at hand. All is not as it seems however, as there are spooky and potentially deadly things at play. Could The Night Stalker be slaying from the other side? Did he even die at all? Maybe spirits don’t like to be messed with? Investigate for yourself!
Now, in a cinematic world that is full to the brim with cheap and uninspired ghost, paranormal and possession movies, you’re probably already sighing at the prospect of another low budget offering. I know for a fact that this being an Asylum production certainly doesn’t help things for most viewers. Thankfully, Ghosthunters was one hell of a surprise. Not one of those ‘close the medicine cabinet and get greeted by someone standing behind you’ surprises, but one of those genuine cinematic surprises we all face every now and then. I’ve already talked before about my stance on The Asylum in my review of Apocalypse Pompeii (COUGH! PLUG! COUGH!), so I won’t retread on hallowed ground, but let’s just say my hopes weren’t too high. Did I also mention this was a film cashing in on the hype and success of the Ghostbusters reboot!? Yeah. I can totally understand why people would completely give this one a miss. As much as I understand, I have to say more fool them.
Thankfully, Ghosthunters isn’t cheesy or tongue in cheek at all and shoddy CGI doesn’t make an unwelcome appearance. Although not completely original, the film is a breath of fresh air. The characters are likeable enough for you to follow and the tone does get genuinely creepy, bordering on sinister at points. Unfortunately, we do get treated to that unwanted cliché of spirits suffering from sped up nausea inducing head spasms (I’m sure there’s a proper technical term for that?) in the afterlife and the occasional loud jump scare, but I think the latter is unavoidable in films like this and it is never overused. Speaking of the spirits, they look and sound great and wether they’re jumping at the screen or standing in the corner of the room, they look the part. The film itself looks great and actually has a genuine cinematic feel. Like I said, a real surprise when you consider what this film is and who produced it. There’s even some genuinely gruesome moments with practical effects!
All in all, I really enjoyed this one. From the performances to the atmosphere. Takes aspects of the Fatal Frame and the Silent Hill game franchises with a hint of Saw and a sprinkling of Ringu and throw in elements of the recent slew of possession films (you’ll see what I mean!) and mix that with paranormal cinema and programming and you have a very solid film indeed. Of course, some of the technology used is reminiscent of Ghostbusters, but this film could have easily been released on its own merits and in a completely different window of time in relation to that remake. I can completely understand why it was released when it was, but I personally think a much more legitimate and forgiving crowd would appreciate the film for what it is. I think Teo and all those involved in this film should be proud and I very much look forward to going through Teo’s other directorial efforts.
I can be the biggest snob when it comes to cinema, but I genuinely call bullshit on the potential critics of this film. If you missed this film completely for any of the reasons mentioned earlier in the review, do yourselves a favour and be genuinely surprised. Ghosthunters is not a perfect film by any means, but for someone who finds ghost / paranormal films quite tedious for the most part, I thought this was one of the best horror films produced in 2016.
Ghosthunters is out now on DVD from High Fliers