Written by Steve Pattee
Did you guys know I have three balls? – Randy
Directed by Joe Knee
Written by Benjamin Oren
2004, 72 minutes, Not rated
Alexandra Barretto as Dara
Shelby Fenner as Abbey
Curt Cornelius as Randy
Aaron Patrick Freeman as Sebastian
Robert Berson as Cousin Ted
Eric Woods as Simon
Peter Cilella as Nate
Danielle Hartnett as Talia
In the water, there is an island.
On the island, there is a cabin.
In the cabin, there is a game. A game of death.
Twenty years ago, three girls headed to this island for a little witchery. Things went wrong, and they died. Well, sort of. They no long inhabit their physical bodies, but their spirits have been seen hanging out.
Now, two decades later, seven friends come to the island for a weekend getaway. Arriving before anyone else, Abby and Dara find a journal kept by the previous guests. Apparently, many of the people who had stayed at the cabin wrote a little bit in the journal. But the last entry explicitly warns the reader not to play The Game.
Later that night, after everyone arrives, the group is looking for something to do, and guess what game is broken out?
And even though they can’t figure out the rules, they play the game anyway.
Because they have no other choice.
As I was watching Ghost Game, one thought kept going through my mind: This is going to be a bitch to review.
For me, movies that suck are the easiest to review. The only tough part is restraint. Even if the move is a complete waste, you can’t beat the filmmakers up without restraint because far too often you waste your time beating up the filmmakers, and not the film itself.
Good movies, on the other hand, are a little tougher to review. It’s easier to blow something out of the water than to persuade someone to trust you, someone they’ve never met, that the water is safe.
But then there are movies like Ghost Game. Equal parts good and bad. Every time something annoyed me, something else made up for it. And that’s the toughest review to write.
The best example of this is the Game’s script. Benjamin Oren’s script has more ups than downs. Actually, mostly ups. At times, the dialogue is Whedon-esque (as in Joss, creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) in its wit — appropriately funny at the most inopportune times. However, sometimes the delivery fails. Some of the script’s best lines come from Randy’s mouth. They are funny lines but, more often than not, Curt Cornelius, the actor who plays Randy, blows them with his over-the-top delivery. And who gets the blame for that? Cornelius for overdoing it? Or director Joe Knee, for not reeling him in?
Another problem is the acting. While, overall, the acting is more than adequate by low-budget standards (it’s actually not as good as some, but better than most), there is an obvious hierarchy of skill within the actors. Usually this is okay, as the best actors in a film can help carry the others—if only to even things out. But when you kill your best actor first, and relatively early on, it doesn’t help the movie. Peter Cilella, playing Nate, is dispatched in the first half of the movie, and I honestly was a little surprised. It’s hard enough getting competent actors in a low-budget film. You don’t kill off the good ones.
Also, the movie is shot two different ways. The cabin stuff with the group is shot “normal.” No noticeable filters, no crazy camera moves. But the flashback scenes of the three witches have an annoying greenish filter and are filmed “wavy” — like some wacky acid trip. The two together just don’t work, and it creates a distraction.
Sadly, there’s not a whole lot that really stands out and will make this movie memorable. Some of the dialogue really is good, but when the best lines are killed by bad deliveries, you are left wondering whether you should laugh or not.
And, unfortunately, that is the story of the entire movie.
Video, audio and special features will not be graded, as this is a screener. At first, I was concerned, because the screener I received was a full-screen version of the movie. I cannot harp enough the importance of widescreen, in particular in the low-budget genre. Sometimes it’s about presentation, and a full-screen presentation just says you are only good enough for TV. But, like the movie itself, there is a bright side. Image Entertainment, the company releasing Ghost Game May 30th, has it listed as a 16:9 anamorphic presentation with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This actually makes sense because the image did look compressed on the screener.
The script and the above-average acting saves this from a star, and I do see some talent just underneath the surface. The movie is not a complete bust, but it’s only worth a weeknight rental.
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