Monday 21 May 2018

Ghost House (Thailand/USA 2017: Dir Rich Ragsdale)

Scout Taylor-Compton (Laurie Strode in Rob Zombie's Halloween reboot movies) is Julie, who is about to have a very bad number of days when she and boyfriend Jim (James Landry Hébert) tour the Bangkok area of Thailand. Hoodwinked by a couple of Brits into investigating ornate shrines deep in the woods, the young couple are caught up in a nightmare when Julie becomes haunted by a frightening figure who can only be seen by her. Jim faces a race against time to find a cure for Julie's deepening psychosis before he loses his wife to irreversible insanity.

Rich Ragsdale's second feature (his first, 2005's The Curse of El Charro wasn't well received) is a curious thing; a well made, superbly photographed ghost story which borrows a lot of elements from other films but has enough verve and spirit to be, if not original, then certainly worth your time.

Ghost House has a very keen sense of place and its adoption of Thai belief systems is essential to the story (unlike, for example, a film like The Forest, with its rather lurid appropriation of a well known and very real suicide location in Japan). Ragsdale isn't beyond a bit of exploitation himself however, with footage of various undernourished and disabled locals thrown in for verisimilitude, and a story which on more than one occasion strays into 'superstitious villagers' territory.

While her boyfriend Tim is somewhat lethargically played by Hébert, Taylor-Compton is extremely effective as Julie. Trapped in her own private hell with the sometimes extremely frightening apparitions visible to no-one but her, it's a step up from most genre movies in that you genuinely feel for the character - clearly her role in the Halloween movies was a useful training ground. At times Ghost House resembles a more serious Drag Me to Hell - the story has its roots in MR James's story 'Casting the Runes' via its 2017 adaptation It Follows. The movie has drawn some criticism for its rather overly used shock haunting shtick, but I disagree. The menacing of Julie by the avenging spirit takes on a rather relentless feel, and the visions of the spectre (which for once isn't overly cursed by expository explanation) are genuinely unsettling.

Ghost House does well with its obviously limited budget. It may not be offering anything particularly new, but its combination of eastern myth, magic and traditional frights worked for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment