GHOST HOUSE: An Exhaustingly Loud Horror Dud
Predictable, overbearing, and generic, Ghost House is a film that is lacking in all the essential ingredients that make up a great horror.
Predictable, overbearing, and generic, Ghost House is a film that is lacking in all the essential ingredients that make up a great horror. It is nothing more than a cheap knock-off of far better films that have come before it, and director Rich Ragsdale seems to do nothing to steer the film in a more promising direction.
Ghost House follows couple Julie and Jim, played by Scout Taylor-Compton and James Landry Hébert respectively, as they travel to Thailand. Their holiday starts out innocent enough: taking photos, embracing the local culture, but soon Julie accidentally disrespects a native ‘ghost house’ which causes her to become the target of a malevolent spirit that has its eyes on her soul. From here, the pair must figure out how they can remove the evil spirit before it consumes her.
One of the weakest elements of Ghost House is that it seems to have little to no ideas of its own. The plot seems to be taken almost exactly from the Sam Raimi horror Drag Me to Hell, with only superficial details being changed. One central plot point in the film is also taken from David Robert Mitchell’s fantastic feature It Follows, a film of which Ghost House could only dream of being as successful as. This lack of originality is not only present in the plot, but the scares too. Many of the scares are ripped entirely from other horror films, one scare in particular involving an eye and a throat is taken directly from Insidious: Chapter 3, which was already borrowing from the Elm Street series.
Perhaps the most obvious and insulting act of borrowing the filmmakers commit is in the soundtrack, which is composed by director Rich Ragsdale. When it’s not being ear-shatteringly loud and obnoxious, it is clearing mimicking the iconic score to John Carpenter’s The Thing, which was composed by Ennio Morricone. This act of blatant mimicry is already insulting, but what adds insult to injury is that it doesn’t even fit the tone of the film, and instead detracts from the overall piece. It also doesn’t help that many of the sound effects sound like they were found in a stock library for ‘scary sound effects’.
Despite the very clear unoriginality present here, the film does attempt conjure up some of its own scares, to differing levels of success. One recurring element is the image of the central antagonist, a disfigured and demonic old woman who is severely burned. Upon her first appearance, she is actually quite effective, with the help of some eerie sound effects and great lighting. But subsequent appearances become less effective as the film has already showed you everything the creature has to offer. It’s as if the filmmakers forgot one of the most basic horror film rules: less is more.
Bland Characters And Ethnic Stereotypes
Much like the plot, the characters here are also incredibly generic and paper-thin. Scout Taylor-Compton does her best here as Julie, but the weak dialogue and lack of any discernible character development make her character dull and uninteresting. Julie also spends most of the film either in a bed or passed out. James Landry Hébert is also clearly giving his all as Jim but again the character has no interesting elements to make his performance stand out, although his character is the most developed of the film.
Another problematic element of the film is the stereotypical way it depicts Thai people and the country’s culture. The film is littered with ethnic stereotypes and Thai characters that exist solely to help our American protagonists, one such character is Gogo (Michael S. New), an overly friendly Thai tourist driver that spends the entire runtime of the film driving the protagonists around and helping them in their endeavour. He is never extrapolated on beyond that.
If there is one thing the film does get right it is the wonderful landscape shots of Thailand, which does look magnificent here. Cinematographer Pierluigi Malavasi does a great job of making Thailand look stunningly beautiful. He also does an admirable job of lighting and framing some of the films key set-pieces, while these scares are unoriginal, at least they look professional.
The film also does a good job of integrating the landscape of Thailand into the story, making the characters have to travel at great distances across the country to get help for Julie. In doing this the audience is treated to some lovely looks at Thailand and its beautiful landscapes. It’s a shame that much of this wonderful photography is completely wasted here.
Ghost House: Conclusion
The decent cinematography aside, there is nothing to see here. Ghost House is a wearisome and empty horror effort from Rich Ragsdale that is completely devoid of any decent scares. Its sheer lack of originality will leave you yearning to be watching one of the many far superior films that Ghost House borrows so heavily from. Instead of wasting your money on this derivative nonsense, watch Drag Me to Hell instead.
What did you think of Ghost House?
Ghost House is available via ITunes or in select theaters now
“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it.” Read the Letter of Solidarity here. Make a donation to the legal fund here.