Director: Rich Ragsdale
Writer: Kevin O’Sullivan, Jason Chase Tyrrell
Producer: Kevin Ragsdale, Veronica Radaelli
Stars: James Landry Hebert, Scout Taylor-Compton, Mark Boone Junior, Russell Geoffrey Banks, Richard Gray, Elana Krausz, Kevin Ragsdale, Wenchu Yang, Michael New
A man vacationing in Thailand must save his possessed fiancée from an evil spirit after she inadvertently disturbs a ceremonial shrine.
American tourists Jim and Julie are barely in Bangkok for a full movie minute when they get their first taste of Thai culture’s darker side. Local guide Gogo points out a ghost house, a small shrine placed outside dwellings for spirits to inhabit so they leave the main homes alone, and Julie develops an instant fascination. How frighteningly foretelling that one of these tiny towers is only hours away from taking their Thailand tour on a terrifying turn.
Over dinner, Jim pops a question to which Julie excitedly answers, “yes!” The loving couple then does what anyone would to intimately celebrate their engagement in an exotic locale: they befriend two random British blokes in the hotel lobby and go on a bender that stops at a bright neon strip club.
This is the exact moment when “Ghost House” severs all ties with its centerpiece pair as people worth giving two hoots about. What’s weird is that “Ghost House” otherwise follows fright film formula front to back. Yet the movie oddly dismisses concern for putting pleasant protagonists in a predicament they don’t deserve so an audience can feel some sympathy.
Instead, Jim is instantly made an inconsiderate cad who would leave his new fiancée on a sidewalk while he gets a lap dance. From the high of the most romantic moment of their relationship to the low of drunkenly accusing each other of infidelity, Jim and Julie squeeze out all potential to be a cute couple in favor of bizarrely bickering over who can impress the strangers they’ve partnered with.
You see, their new Englishmen friends want to take the husband and wife-to-be to the country to look at a forest full of ghost houses. Even in a haze of booze and g-strings, Jim isn’t so sure a midnight run with two men they just met is a hot idea. Julie angrily overrules Jim’s common sense. You got to go to a strip club, I get to go on a photo excursion to parts unknown in a weird van, she illogically reasons. With this one poorly considered moment, the script shifts culpability for what is about to happen onto Julie, whose only sin is picking the wrong time to teach her fiancé a lesson in considering her needs.
At a forest ghost house, the British buds secretly tie one of Julie’s personal possessions around a small idol and then convince Julie to take it. Julie does, unleashing the wrath of a malevolent spirit who is none too pleased about her ghost house items being disturbed… when Julie does it anyway. The ghost appears perfectly fine with the Englishman touching the idol to put something on it, since nothing happens to him. Anyway, the Brits beat feet, Julie collapses from demonic possession, and now it is up to Jim to figure out how to exorcise the evil.
“Ghost House” is a standard vengeful ghost yarn whose only unique draw is the Thailand backdrop behind its setting and mythology. Move everything to Japan and you basically have a diluted take on “The Grudge.” Move it to America and you basically have a diluted Westernized remake of “The Grudge.”
In fact, in an “I’m not quite sure what the filmmakers were thinking” amalgamation of Asian superstitions, a character explains that the ghost in “Ghost House” is actually a Japanese woman who was wronged by a Thai man before turning evil. Instead of black hair, the ghost has graying white locks, yet retains the characteristic gaping maw of J-horror sirens while adding marionette movements in silhouette as her chief means of being creepy.
Elaborating further on any details of the premise or the production would be a lot like spinning in a circle. “Ghost House” essentially fights a war of redundancy on two fronts. The first is within the movie itself, through repeated instances of haunting vision jump scares causing Scout Taylor-Compton to cower. The second is within the supernatural story subgenre as a whole, where poltergeist/possession tales like this one are a penny per pound.
Brothers Rich and Kevin Ragsdale, who conceived the story together and respectively directed and produced the movie, milk some mileage out of the Bangkok backgrounds, lending an atypical Thai flavor that visually amplifies the look through the locations. Beyond that, “Ghost House’s” predictable plot and uninteresting characters combine to wear a hat so old, it crumbles to dust from the touch of all the room temperature thrills.
Review Score: 40