I’m all for Independent film, especially when it’s horror. When I heard that there was some positive buzz surrounding “GhostWatcher,” I knew I’d be checking it out. After watching it however, I think most of the spin came from the team behind the film.
First, the positive: the story is pretty good. Laura is a young woman (played by Jillian Byrnes) who experiences a major trauma and becomes an agoraphobe (she’s afraid of open places and can’t leave her home). Her job as a computer graphics designer means she can still work without stepping outside, so this new lifestyle seems to be working until she realizes she’s trapped in her home with a malevolent ghost.
She calls in the help of Elizabeth Dean, who runs a website specializing in spirit detection. Elizabeth is skeptical at first, until she begins to see things too. Add a friend who has something to hide into the mix, and you have the makings of an inspired little horror flick.
Execution is another matter though, and I’m sorry to say the film fails on most levels. I almost feel guilty, because so much time was obviously put into developing the story, that it shames me to have to criticize it. Unfortunately not as much attention was put into the actual script: Plot holes are everywhere and, although attempts to cover these are made, they don’t really work. When one character states that ghosts can’t re-enter their own body (and a bunch of related stuff), I wondered how she (or anyone, for that matter) could possibly know that. Her explanation that she got it off a website includes the throwaway line: “How these people know this is beyond me.” Maybe I’m being picky, but I felt the story deserved better.
The characters also don’t behave realistically. In one scene, Laura sets up a video camera to record herself when she sleeps. When she watches it the next day, she sees a knife being put to her throat, yet she doesn’t even think to call the police. In another example, Laura is washing her face in the sink and the water turns to blood (in a seen lifted from far too many other horror films); she looks up in the mirror and sees her face is covered with the stuff. What is her reaction? Her mouth drops open a bit and the scene ends. I don’t know about you, but I’d be screaming loud enough to wake the dead.
On a technical level, “GhostWatcher” is grainy to the point of distraction, and the music is, most times, distracting and poorly done. The lead actors are pretty good though, with the exception of Byrnes who is completely wooden and unnatural.
“GhostWatcher” is at its best when it throws modern technology into the mix. Although a review of an EVP tape (designed to pick up the voices of the dead) cuts away too soon to be effective, the use of a webcam to explore the basement where a killer resides is both creative and creepy. Unfortunately, that tension is all undone when the film begins to ape “The Blair Witch Project.” The awful makeup effects also don’t help: a rotting corpse turns out to be a guy in a mud facial, for example. Not to be a Negative Nacho, but I could have done better with $20 and a trip to the dollar store. I’m being serious.
The idea is good, and it does have moments where I actually forgot it was a low-budget film but this is a rare case where the story deserves better than it gets, and that’s a damn shame. If you’re really jonesing for a film featuring agoraphobia that’s also pretty creepy, check out Sigourney Weaver in “Copycat” instead.
Pros: Manages to work in an “Evil Dead” reference. Great, creative story…
Cons: …that is, unfortunately, botched on nearly all levels.
Review Rating: 2 out of 5 notebooks filled with dead people.
94 Minutes; USA
Rated R for language, violence and some sexual content
Jillian Byrnes (Laura Kove)
Marianne Hayden (Nikki Brandt)
Jennifer Servary (Elizabeth Dean)
Directed by: David A. Cross
Viewing Format: DVD
(Originally published on HorrorWatch)