Death of a Ghost Hunter

Rating:

The Title Alone Should Have Come with a Spoiler Warning.

Main Cast: Patti Tindall

Director: Sean Tretta

Sean Tretta’s 2007 film Death of a Ghost Hunter is an unfortunate creature. This could have been a great movie. It’s creepy as all hell, enough so that I was thankful I had watched it in the middle of the afternoon as opposed to the middle of the night like I did with movies at my old job. I found myself not wanting to leave my office and venture out to the rest of the house, even though I know I’m home alone, just in case I’m not, just in case there are whispers or chairs moving on their own. At the same time, I shook my head in shame at the quality of the production, the script, and the acting. This is a rare find for me, a bad movie that could be amazing if remade with professional actors and a real budget.

Death of a Ghost Hunter tells the story of Carter Simms (Patti Tindall, The Graves), a paranormal investigator hired by the owner of the Masterson house in Arizona to do what she does and determine if there are or are not ghosts in the house, as claimed by the cleaning lady who now refuses the enter the empty house.

Accompanying Carter will be a videographer friend of the owner, Colin (Mike Marsh, co-writer of the movie), and a local writer, Yvette (Davina Joy, Gone Girl). When the gang all arrives at the house, their surprised to see a fourth member, Mary Young (Lindsay Page), asked by the owner to serve as spiritual adviser. They quickly set up their equipment and begin their study.

A few decades earlier, the last time the house was occupied, the owner’s uncle, aunt, and cousins were all found dead in the house. Evidence suggested the aunt was responsible, then blew her brains out afterward, but Mary Young, a member of the church the Masterson’s attended, insists there’s no way Mary Beth Masterson, a good Christian woman, would have killed herself. It had to have been murder.

While the investigators uncover no proof of murder, other than at the hands of Mary Beth Masterson, they do gather plenty of evidence of the existence of ghosts within the house.

This turns out to be not quite the boon Carter, a skeptic and debunker of haunted sites, had hoped. As you can probably tell by the title of the movie–and the fact the opening of the movie tells you Carter dies–things don’t end well.

Do they ever?

Sean Tretta is the writer/director of a handful of obvious low budget horror movies with titles like The Great American Snuff Film and The Death Factory Bloodletting, neither of which sound, to me, like they’d have any redeeming qualities. I had such low hopes for this one going in, I was just glad to find anything worthwhile to talk about afterward.

But luckily I did.

Most of the effectiveness of this movie comes from the sound design. The ghostly presences are indicated to the audience by a series of backwards whispers that permeate the movie and set the viewer on edge. That, accompanied by the filming style, which feels like a hybrid version of straight filming and found footage, and our attention is so constantly shifting, we’re not sure where the danger is going to come from, but the whispers let us know there’s definitely something out there.

Unfortunately, as well as those things work here, the acting and script defuse a ton of that tension and suspense that’s been built up. Not only is the dialogue weak and stiff, it’s almost as if these actors have no concept of where to place what emphasis on which words in their delivery. So at times it’s like we’re watching a student film made by a very talented director with a clear vision and the skills to back that up, who then went to the local grade school in search of a cast. And these are grown adults.

There’s also the issue of length. At just over an hour and forty minutes, Death of a Ghost Hunter is easily 20 minutes longer than it needed to be. Several scenes in the middle have the feel of rambling padding just to film for the sake of filming, and then we’ve got a 20 minute epilogue that needed to be cut in half.

The special effects are used well here and definitely add to the creepiness, especially the shots of the ghostly girl peering out of her bedroom doorway on the surveillance cameras. And for the more gory stuff later on, Tretta knows how to make showing absolutely nothing work.

I would recommend this movie on the basis of how creeped out I got watching it at 11:00 in the morning. But with that recommendation would be a warning to not let the acting trip you up in the beginning. It’s bad from the start, it was shot on cheap video and looks it, but stick with it long enough to at least get into the heart of the ghost activity as that’s where the movie is most effective and that time spent will pay off.

This isn’t a great movie–it’s not really even a GOOD one–but where it works, it works well, and for something that looks so cheap and amateurish for the most part, those few and far between moments of excellence make it worthwhile.

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