Lionsgate // 2011 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // December 14th, 2012
There is a price to pay when you cheat death...
College student Kyle (Aaron Dean Eisenberg) is having a tough time: in order to keep up with his rigorous studies, he's taken to smoking crystal meth; because the crystal meth keeps him up all night, he's missing the classes he's studying for; he's also broke all the time, because crystal meth costs money, so he's been appropriating funds from his girlfriend. It's a vicious circle, and there seems to be no way out.
One day, Kyle goes to a woman's house to move out some junk. Among the junk is a coffin. She advises him to bury it -- and make sure it's buried -- but Kyle takes it home, determining to sell it online.
Well, let's just say that when you deal in used coffins, there are going to be consequences.
My expectations for no-name horror movies are pretty low, having waded through abysmal offering after abysmal offering for years now. So imagine my surprise when The Ghostmaker turned out to be a decent little chiller with a neat premise and some solid scares.
Director Mauro Borrelli -- who's been working in films as an illustrator and art director since the '80s -- has fashioned a creepy little story with some chilly set pieces. It doesn't always work, and given Borrelli's background, isn't as visually compelling as it could be, but there are enough twists in the tale to keep things moving along.
Like most horror movies, the premise is big on silly, but it's also kind of clever. The coffin was the creation of some fiendish medieval guy who was burned for practicing the black arts; his greatest wish had been to experience death (though not at the losing end of a burning stick), and the coffin is tricked out with a mechanism that allows one to become a ghost for a few minutes.
Naturally, Kyle and his friends are all over this. Kyle uses his ghost time to set up robberies (as a ghost, he can't actually pick things up, but he can do things like memorize alarm codes and discover secret locations). His serious-minded friend Platt (Jared Grey, Pornography: A Thriller) is intrigued by the coffin's history, but freaks out after an unpleasant round of ghosting. Kyle's wheelchair-bound roommate Sutton (J. Walter Holland), on the other hand, thinks it's great: when he's a ghost, he's able to walk, and he has an agenda that's not going to sit well with Kyle.
There is, of course, a downside to playing around with the reaper, and that downside manifests itself as a malevolent apparition that indiscriminately chases the guys around.
Even though Platt keeps warning Kyle and Sutton about impending doom, they're more invested in the havoc they're causing with their Near Death Experiences -- and, the potential benefits. Plus, since Kyle is a drug addict, he's never sure how much of what's going on is real and how much is hallucination.
While the film is filled with explanations for all the ghostly goings on -- mostly supplied by Platt, who's a researcher -- none of it really comes together. Normally, this would be a problem, but in The Ghostmaker, it's actually an asset, keeping the whole thing nicely off-kilter. There's a haphazard feel to all this -- the opening minutes suggest that this is going to be another "found footage" ordeal, but Borrelli basically abandons that right out of the gate -- but, weirdly, the messiness works in the film's favor. In fact, The Ghostmaker loses steam at the end when Borrelli decides to focus on traditional plotting, giving us a ludicrous stalker story and some buyer's remorse on the part of one of the characters.
Before that, though, we get some hilariously awkward-looking ghostings, over-the-top moments involving Kyle's drug dealer -- including a gratuitous and raunchy sex scene -- and some nice creep outs involving the apparition. There's also a well-done twist at the end. While it's by no means a classic, The Ghostmaker is loopy and creepy enough to warrant a watch on a chilly night.
The disc offers up a good-looking image and a clear Dolby surround audio track. For supplements, we get a commentary from Borrelli and the producers, a "making of" featurette, deleted scenes, and a trailer.
It doesn't all work, but The Ghostmaker offers a fair share of creepy along with some pretty good twists and a couple of detours into crazyland. Lionsgate has put out a solid disc for this entertaining little horror flick.
Review content copyright © 2012 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes