The excitingly titled Death Of A Ghost Hunter isn’t really the type of film that should require a plot synopsis – everything you need to know is contained in the title, right? Well, not entirely; there’s a lot more going on in this Blair Witch Project-alike than you’d likely suspect from the overzealous-sounding title, like the way the film is apparently based on real-life journal entries for example.
Like Blair Witch, Death Of A Ghost Hunter tries to construct a believable haunting by using shaky nightvision cameras in the style of Most Haunted. Unlike Blair Witch, though, Death Of A Ghost Hunter slowly slips away from this realistic aim and gets more and more silly and aggressive as time goes on – which makes comparisons to the Evil Dead series a little more apt than citing Blair Witch.
The film tells the story of ghost hunter Carter Simms, who has been called in to investigate the spooky goings on of the Masterson family home, which has been unoccupied and untouched since the grisly murder of the entire family there twenty years previous. Employed by the heir to the house, Masterson is reluctantly teamed up with two local cynics – a cameraman and journalist who think they smell a good story. Thus, the action takes place entirely within the house and has a tiny cast of just four real characters – the perfect setup for a film made on an obviously shoestring budget.
Providing some relief from the claustrophobic shooting are extracts from Carter’s journal, which are narrated during quiet points and upon which the entire film is supposedly based, according to the opening credits. Just in case this doesn’t spook you out enough, the film also ends with fantastical claims and indicates the events depicted are well known in the paranormal community as offering the best evidence of life after death ever recorded and that the house is now on America’s top ten most haunted sites.
There is a small problem with these claims, though, namely that they’ve either been ‘embellished’ to the breaking point of creative license or that the filmmakers gathered all the required information to make the film, then destroyed it all. There’s no trace I’ve been able to find that would validate the claim that the film is factually based – nothing about the ghosts, the haunting or the ultra-religious and psychotic nutjobs the Mastersons are portrayed as being.
I don’t know why I should be surprised. After the whole Blair Witch and Mothman Prophecies phenomenon, these things have started to become overly familiar – though it’s to Death Of A Ghost Hunter‘s credit that there’s no mention of giant moths predicting the future.
Whether or not the plot is hugely embellishment or fabrication, though, the narrative style works well – until its pretty much abandoned about halfway through the film anyway and the film starts pulling out unbelievable shockers at an unrelenting pace.
What started as something slow, tense and genuinely creepy rapidly accelerates into something farcical – though it retains a spooky echo, admittedly. It also thinks rather a lot of itself and its clever plot twists. It’s just a shame the twists are about as obvious as being beaten slowly but deliberately round the head with a large sign that says “This is a plot twist! Aren’t I being clever?!”
The subtle use of special effects works well, though and, for a film that obviously has fairly low production values, there are times when you can’t help but curl your toes up in fright. The clever use of POV camerawork and ghostly tittering in the background audio contribute a lot too, even if the overall soundtrack leaves a bit to be desired. It’s mostly two notes on the piano and, when things get really bad, the cello (terror of the strings section) comes in andechoes those two notes to really build up the pressure.
The script isn’t fantastic and there are several points when the characters repeat the same annoying mistakes we’ve seen a hundred other ill-fated adventurers do. Investigating strange noises, ignoring nearby weapons and venturing off alone like emo teenagers in a huff.
It all ends in tears, obviously – though perhaps tears of boredom for some, as the film runs on for about 20 minutes more than it needs to. After what appears to be the final scene, one of characters spectrally narrates all the details that had been left unanswered, thus creating a nice little ending summary. However, after this ending, a strange little mini scene is tacked on, as if by pumping more scenes into the film, it’ll somehow become better. This ruins any sense of completion the audience may have achieved and adds nothing to the overall story, atmosphere or life in general.
Despite the weak script and unconvincing performances, though, I was scared at several points – so on that front the film could be considered a success. The whole thing is vaguely laughable and anyone who is at all cynical about ghosts or known for making sarcastic interruptions about the quality of the film is likely to roll their eyes so hard they can see their own frontal lobe, but there’s still an audience that will love it.
If you’re into your tawdry, pulp fiction ghost stories and don’t mind buying into the terrible characters and situation for the sake of a cheap thrill then it’s entirely possible you’ll enjoy Death Of A Ghost Hunter despite the obvious, numerous weak points.
Death Of A Ghost Hunter is out now.