I’m sure many have said this, but one of the best parts about writing entertainment reviews is stumbling upon a piece of art that may not have flown by my radar any other way, at least not immediately. However, there are also times when leaving the country seems like the best alternative to putting myself through another hour and a half of abysmal cinema. The Ghostmaker is a soul-crushing example of the latter, and I already feel like an asshole for wasting your time by talking about it.
I wish The Ghostmaker was so bad that it was good. I also wish that it was so bad that the first copy of it got engulfed in flames before any replicas could be made. The only thing I can say about the film that isn’t entirely negative is that I was in no way able to predict the movie’s complete shift in plot sensibilities. Despite all outward appearances of being a horror movie, there are literally zero scares in the movie--beyond the actors’ line readings. In fact, with the exception of the gear-faced ghost creature that pops up a handful of times, the film doesn’t even seem intent on scaring viewers. I don’t know what anyone involved was thinking. It’s a textbook example of how a cool idea doesn’t always translate into a cool movie.
Kyle (Aaron Dean Eisenberg) is a young meth addict who acquires an ornamental coffin with a series of gears and wheels beneath the head cushion, a mechanism that causes anyone who lies in the coffin to turn temporarily into a ghost. He draws his wheelchair-bound friend Sutton (J. Walter Holland) into the mystery of figuring the coffin out. Admittedly, the clock interior visuals are well-crafted. Sutton has the hots for Kyle’s girlfriend Julie (Liz Fenning), and Julie is pissed that Kyle has drug dealer money problems.
Ten minutes into the film, Kyle visits ‘the university guy’ who knows about arcane coffins, Platt (Jared Grey), who tells him about Wolfgang Von Tristen, a 15th century “torture device maker” who was burned at the stake. Seriously. Later, the plot allows entry for more occult background to explain absolutely nothing.
When using the coffin, Kyle is able to spy on his dealer bullies, and Sutton is able to use his legs and spy on Julie. The point seems to be, the more they use it, the more evil they become, but there’s also that spooky gear-faced reaper monster, so I’m not sure what the specific consequences are. The story eventually takes a “friend vs. friend” turn that does not justify the first half of the movie. It’s just terrible storytelling.
A low budget cannot be blamed for the convenient writing or questionable cinematography. The opening shot of the movie is a handheld camera filming others using the coffin, and proposes that the film is based on the true events from that video. Beyond the convolution, it’s as if the handheld camera, which is essentially filming a person lying down in a coffin, is encased in jello and flung from wall to wall. The guys record their experiences with the coffin, but without the terrible CGI ghost to look at, these videos show no proof of any out-of-body experiences.
Avoid this movie at all costs. It’s less fun than coffin shopping for your spouse, and lasts twice as long.
The commentary for the film, given by director/co-screenwriter Mauro Borrelli and producers Ed Polgardy and Scott Rudolph, actually starts off with, “Welcome to the Box of Shadows commentary,” which is later referred to as the earlier title for the film, as well as Ghost Machine, but that no final decisions had been made. They’re recording a commentary for a film that doesn’t even have a solid name yet. It doesn’t speak highly for the film’s quality. You can shit in a box and call it a present, but that doesn’t change what it is.
The making-of section is oddly separated into three parts, which run around eight minutes apiece. All of these refer to the film as Box of Shadows, as well. There’s a lot of talk in these extras, as in the commentary, about making a low budget film, including discussing the props and locations. These three parts all have a spooky aesthetic going on that actually works better than the film does.
There are six deleted scenes, none of which add anything or subtract anything, really. This includes some cut footage about a job Kyle had, as well as a scene which shows him hallucinating.
Reviewed By: Nick Venable