AUGUST 27, 2009
Those who can write, write. Those who can’t, write movies like Ghost Image anyway. And then schmucks like me rent them, lured in by attractive stars (Elizabeth Rohm and Stacey Dash) and the titular promise of a ghost. And as a bonus, Rohm’s character is a video editor, much like me. Despite the gender difference, I should be able to identify with her character much easier than say, Jonathan Parker (football hero) or whatever it is Jared Padalecki’s character did for a living in Friday the 13th. But unfortunately, I am a real person who does real things, so I couldn’t identify with anyone in this movie.
Why the synopsis bothered to point out her occupation is a bit of a puzzler, because she doesn’t edit a goddamn thing in the movie. In fact, one of the movie’s biggest problems is that nothing feels genuine, and the “editing” scenes are a prime example. Apparently, the only reason she’s an editor is to provide an excuse for her to have a really nice computer with three monitors. Unfortunately, no one involved with shooting these scenes has apparently ever seen an NLE before, because her “editing” software has no interface at all. Instead, all three of her monitors show the same image, full-screen, and all she ever does is watch footage. So her ‘editing’ style seems to be no different than any 12 year old kid hooking up the family DV camera to the TV with a set of composite AV cables. Unfortunately, screenwriter James Schulte passed away before the film went into production, so he obviously couldn’t be there to point out how fake these scenes were coming across.
The film’s police and lawyer characters follow suit, in that they seem written by someone who never actually even as much as spoke to a cop or lawyer before, but merely watched a few of Rohm’s episodes of Law & Order and went from there. Roma Maffia’s cop is seemingly limited to woodenly trying to get a rise out of the suspects, and the lawyer guy simply says things like “I’d ask for an attorney... but I AM one”. And plot holes abound; the 3rd act of the film revolves around Rohm escaping from police custody, but somehow no one on this police force thought to check her apartment, because that’s where she is (they don’t even bother staking the place out from outside).
It’s also needlessly convoluted in its attempt to give the film a few red herrings, despite the fact that anyone with half a brain will know that the killer is Stacey Dash’s jilted ex girlfriend. Why do we know this? Well, besides Rohm and Maffia, she’s the only other actor of note in the film and yet never really does anything until the end. Also the film opens with her blowing the future stiff a kiss and looking pouty when he goes to his new girl (Rohm). But instead of a basic love triangle, the writers (there are three) throw us an attempt at a curveball by having literally EVERY CHARACTER have romantic tangles within the group. There’s a redhaired girl whose boyfriend is in love with Rohm, who is with the guy that got killed, who used to date Dash, who is now dating the lawyer that is also seemingly after Rohm (or something - I lost track after awhile). And yet they’re all friends who seemingly meet for drinks every single night. Can’t these fucking people date outside their little circle?
Another obvious red herring is Rohm’s backstory, which involves her inadvertently causing the deaths of her parents and little sister in a car accident. Most of the “horror” in this movie stems from her seeing images of her bloodied little sister, which is supposed to make us think that she is cracking up and may have been the killer herself. But again, we know this can’t be true, because that would require the movie to have some fucking balls, when in reality it’s a PG-13 movie that can’t even be bothered to show us the car accident that takes the life of one of the film’s two casualties.
So it doesn’t work as a horror movie, and it doesn’t work as a mystery, and it doesn’t even work as a character piece since all of the characters are single-dimensional pieces of cardboard. Does anything about it work? Uh... well, Rohm is nice to look at (why did you leave Angel, you jerk!). And the ending is kind of a bummer in the traditional sense, but it didn’t actually bum me out because the movie didn’t give me a reason to give a rat’s ass about the people involved.
The DVD tries hard to change my mind though, offering up the whole shebang of extra features. There’s a 25 minute making of, a full 20 minutes of deleted scenes (mostly character stuff, and apart from making the movie longer, some of them should have been left in), some “funny” outtakes, and even a music video for “Shattered”, the song that plays over the menu and end credits. Look, I LIKE cheesy pop ballads (in fact, I had OAR’s “Shattered” on a few minutes ago), but this song was grating once, let alone three times. The making of is probably my favorite thing on the disc, due to the way that director Jack Snyder treats us like idiots, explaining what a rack focus is and giving a filmography for just about every actor in the film. He does the same thing on the commentary (why did I even listen to it? Like I was dying to watch the movie again today?), offering pearls of wisdom like “Filmmaking is telling a story with pictures” over a fairly standard shot of Rohm sitting in shock, surrounded by friends who eventually fade out to show how it’s a while later and she’s still sitting there. The man has a gift, if talking to people as if Ghost Image and its supplements were their first experience with cinema. Oddly, the only thing of note that pops up in the commentary is that the film was shot 2.35:1 but the DVD is 1.78:1 - but they don't bother explaining why they'd willingly cut 25% of their image out.
One final note - has any actress aged as minimally as Stacey Dash? She’s someone whose age is only betrayed by math - she’s been around for over 20 years (I first saw her in Richard Pryor’s Moving, in 1987), so I know she has to be at least forty by now, but if I had to guess by looking at her I’d say 28, 29. And that’s probably the only downside of looking so young - had she looked her age, she probably wouldn’t have even been considered to play a role in Ghost Image.
What say you?