Ghost House (United States, 2017)

August 24, 2017
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Ghost House Poster

Ghost House is a generally well-made but ultimately unsurprising excursion into the supernatural. Although more interested in psychological terror than a high body count, the film touches enough of the expected tropes that horror fans will be kindly disposed toward the end result. Director Rich Ragsdale is adept at providing creepy images, engineering jump-scares, and making the ghouls look demonic. Throw in an exotic location (Bangkok, Thailand) and the ingredients are present for a diverting ghost story. The movie stumbles, however, by introducing a moral dilemma the consequences of which it’s unwilling to address and resorting to a generic, nonsensical ending.

Jim (James Landry Hebert) and Julie (Scout Taylor-Compton) are vacationing in Bangkok – a location they deem to be colorful and romantic where they can enjoy the sights, where Julie can indulge her passion for photography, and where Jim can propose marriage. They meet a tour guide named Gogo (Michael S. New), who offers to show them around. In the process, he tells them about the secret stories of Thailand and the spirits that inhabit the so-called “ghost houses.” At their hotel, Jim and Julie meet Robert (Russell Geoffrey Banks) and Billy (Rich Lee Gray), a couple of British guys who suggest they spend a night out on the town. After visiting a strip club (not Julie’s thing), they decide to take a trip to the countryside. By now, it’s clear that Robert and Billy are up to no good but the nature of their subterfuge isn’t manifested until they strand Jim and Julie far from civilization just as Julie becomes a victim to an evil spirit associated with a ghost house she has accidentally disrespected.

Ragsdale does impressive things with a limited budget – Ghost House looks as good as anything coming out of Blumhouse. The movie boasts a strong sense of atmosphere, aided by location shooting in and around Bangkok. The opening sequence – with a girl being pursued into an alley by a demonic creature –will pique the interest of any horror fan. However, as good as the filmmakers are at developing the situation, they aren’t able to resolve things in a satisfactory manner. The ending feels more like a copout than a legitimate means of providing closure.

One aspect of the film worthy of mention is a moral quandary faced by Jim as Julie’s post-haunting mental condition deteriorates. A shaman (Mark Boone Junior) informs him that, to save his girlfriend, he has to re-direct the spirit to another person (as Robert and Billy did with Julie). Jim is faced with a choice: free Julie by transferring the ghost-demon to a different innocent victim or allow his fiancée to lose her soul. Instead of following through, however, Ghost House cheats and provides us with an “option 3.”

The two leads are capable. Scout Taylor-Compton has already earned her horror stripes by appearing as Laurie Strode in Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake (as well as the sequel). James Landry Hebert, although not possessing Taylor-Compton’s screen presence, is strong enough to carry the film when Julie is unconscious. One possible miscasting is Mark Boone Junior, whose wisecracking Reno belongs in a different movie.

Ghost House is a classic “your mileage may vary” film. Horror lovers who are just looking for a few good scares and a suitably creepy atmosphere will find that Ragsdale delivers. Those with elevated expectations will discover that Ghost House plays it too safe to be more than a common denominator ghost story. There are worse things to aspire to but the laudable aspects of Ghost House aren’t sufficient to make it noteworthy or memorable.

Ghost House (United States, 2017)

Run Time: 1:40
U.S. Release Date: 2017-08-25
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Content, Nudity, Disturbing Images)
Genre: Horror
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1