Ghost Month (2009)

NOVEMBER 7, 2011


If you’ve read my article on BadAssDigest today, you’d know the peculiarity of the Ghost Month Blu-ray – there was no chapter selection or breaks of any sort on the disc. If you fell asleep (and guess what? I did) or merely wanted to bring up a certain scene, you’d have to fast forward your way through the entire movie. Perhaps this was the intention of writer/director Danny Draven, thinking he was David Lynch or something (Lynch refused to allow chapter breaks on Mulholland Drive), but I’m actually pretty sure that the distributor just doesn’t know what the hell they are doing.

Or they just assumed no one would care. Despite winning Best Director and Best Cinematography at the 2007 Chicago Horror Film Festival (grats!), this is not a very good movie, nor does it seem to have found much of a fanbase in the past 4 years. In fact, my rating of a 4/10 on the IMDb will actually IMPROVE its average of 2.7, which is quite low for a movie not even shown on MST3k or directed by Uwe Boll. Not only was it dull and overlong, but it also reminded me of two superior horror films that dealt with a similar backdrop of Chinese ghost traditions (They Wait and Seventh Moon) while constantly feeling like the result of a guy who saw the success of The Ring and The Grudge and decided to make his own “a ghost vs a girl” movie to cash in (albeit a few years too late).

The most obnoxious thing about the movie is that it’s set up like a mystery in which there is only one suspect. Our heroine arrives at her new job to replace the old housekeeper of a very odd Chinese woman and her mother, and on her tour of the house she finds a half renovated basement. News flash – no one in a movie ever has a new wall up in their basement unless they’ve been involved in a murder, so here we are pegging the identity of the killer before we even knew there WAS a suspicious death. Draven tries to hide this by making the neighbor out to be a creepy jerk, but it’s a failed enterprise. Nothing about the mystery holds up to even the loosest definition of logic (which would be the one that we use for low budget horror movies), so you as the viewer are left with 100 minutes of waiting for the heroine to catch up to you.

Besides the neighbor, who is possibly the most fascinatingly baffling character in recent movie memory (he acts suspicious for no reason whatsoever even though he’s apparently trying to hook up with our girl), there is no one else to possibly suspect as the killer. The only other characters of note are the lady’s mother, who doesn’t even seem able to talk, and Alyssa’s insane ex-boyfriend, who wouldn’t possibly have anything to do with it since she just got the job and the girl has been dead for some time. Which of course is the other giveaway – when you have a mystery in a bad horror movie, the guilty party is the one you’re supposed to suspect the least. So is it the invalid, the crazy ex, the weird neighbor… or the seemingly kind woman who occasionally gets really weird about the silliest things? Come on Draven, we’re not stupid.

So with the mystery a total failure, all that’s left are the jump scares, some of which are OK enough but most just fall as flat as everything else. Cheap CGI is the order of the day here (I got nervous right off the bat when I saw a credit for “Digital makeup” – what the hell?), and of course such things are never going to be scary to anyone but skittish cats that watch TV, but damned if folks won’t start trying. But even if they were done practically they wouldn’t work, because there’s no follow-through to ANY of the scares in the movie! I’ve never seen anything like it – Alyssa will see, for example, a door suddenly turn all “scary” (dark, cracks around it, etc), shriek, and then they cut to black. Picture comes back, and it’s the next morning (or week – the passage of time in the film is very difficult to comprehend), and the incident is never mentioned again. Even when it’s a human based scare they don’t have any sort of connective scene – at one point she sees the neighbor burying something in the yard, he catches her watching him… and then, again, it just cuts to the next morning as if nothing happened.

And what the hell is up with the way that the climax plays out? The villain is left to die in the basement, and it takes the ghosts like 10 minutes to crawl over to her and finish her off. Meanwhile, the movie should basically be over, but then the psycho ex shows up, and (quite amusingly) bitch slaps the jerk neighbor guy for a while as they fight over her, as if this was somehow the REAL main thrust of the movie. Maybe if he showed up BEFORE the villain had been subdued and momentarily played hero before showing his true colors, fine, but showing up after just drags the movie out even longer than it already was. Christ, I certainly hope this wasn’t even NOMINATED for an editing award at that film festival.

Speaking of which, I was a bit amused by the two awards it won: best direction and best cinematography, since the movie looked like ass on this Blu-ray. Rare (and laudable) for a low budget indie, it was actually shot on 35mm film, but the high definition transfer and whatever else was done to the film in between being developed and being put on this disc did it no favors – it actually looked like a soap opera more than anything else. I was even more amused by how I came to learn about those awards: the “Festival Laurels” graphics with those and other award/“official selection” notifications were actually edited into the end credits! Usually these things are kept to posters and trailers, since they are meant to draw attention and get you interested in a movie. I have never seen them put onto the movie itself; think about it – if it won an award or showed somewhere, that means the movie was already completed! Draven and co. actually had to go back to their finished film and enter this information, as if to somehow silence any critics who had just finished disliking the movie. “What a lousy mov- hey, wait a minute? It won a few awards? Oh, maybe I am wrong.”

Weirder, the standard def DVD has a commentary and some other extras, whereas this Blu-ray didn’t even need a menu – the screen just has “Play Movie” (and again, there’s not even a way to skip forward in 10 minute increments like most budget discs). So it’s the rare case where the Blu-ray actually did a disservice to the film; not only was the standard def cheaper AND more worthy of a purchase (assuming you liked the movie, I mean), but the lesser quality of the picture probably would have made it look less garish. Oh well. Check out They Wait though, seriously. Underrated little flick.

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. Well this sounds unappealing. I have a feeling I don't have the patience for this one. I might have to check out "They Wait", though. I did see "Seventh Moon" and thought it was decent.


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