Studio: Inception Media Group
Director: Alin Bijan
Writer: Amy Acosta, Alin Bijan
Producer: Alin Bijan
Stars: Billy Zane, Lacey Chabert, Matt Dallas, Danielle Harris, Richard Tyson, Christine Quinn, Allyn Carrell, Jennifer Korbin, Adam Whittington, Brina Palencia
A ghost with a tragic past haunts the film crew that has turned her former home into a post-production studio.
With a deadline looming, the post-production crew of Media World Studios can’t let something like the mysterious death of their lead editor interfere with completing their latest low-budget thriller. Since moving their facilities into a strange little house on Goodnight Lane, everyone on the team has had an odd encounter with a fleeting shadow or an inexplicably moved object, but this is the first time their ghost has done anything fatal. Something has the ghost of Goodnight Lane suddenly hellbent on murder. And no one in the cast or on the crew can leave the premises until she gets what she wants, or kills everyone in the process.
While terrorized actors and traumatized crewmembers are possessed by the evil entity, the movie itself is possessed by a sense of humor that stays sharp without becoming cheesy. “Ghost of Goodnight Lane” is a traditionally styled horror film with the usual gags of ghastly mirror reflections, shoulders grabbed from behind, and noisy audio stings, but deadpan delivery from a very game cast provides an electrified spark of personality.
Even though it is intentionally funny when it wants to be, which is often, classifying “Ghost of Goodnight Lane” as a horror-comedy would be inaccurate. No one on hand purposefully tries to be a pure comedian. Laughs simply flow naturally from the characters themselves as opposed to any overly forced setups or obvious satire.
Standing at the top of that pyramid is Billy Zane. Zane’s career has arced unusually since his Hollywood heyday of big-budget star vehicles such as “The Phantom.” From SyFy monster movies like “Red Clover” (review here) to tepid erotic thrillers like “Scorned” (review here), one-word descriptions of Zane’s various post-“Titanic” roles run the gamut from “engaging” to “disinterested.” A cautious viewer is always wary about which version of Zane s/he is going to get when his name appears in an opening credit scroll.
Zane is one of those recognized actors who can bring a perceived sense of sneering disdain if he feels a part is beneath him. Yet with “Ghost of Goodnight Lane,” he appears to have come to terms with his current status as a featured B-movie name. Nothing in the script specifically stamps his passport for travel into wild territory, but Zane takes the material as far as he can by filling it with playful personal flair.
Zane has as much fun as he can with the dialogue, probably to keep himself interested in what would be a routine job for another actor, and might be for him too, but that subdued enthusiasm translates into casually cool charm. His stilted yet frantic line delivery brings Robert Downey Jr. to mind with the way Zane seems to be saying things as they come to him, as he probably is, without struggling uncomfortably to ad lib or to create eccentricity.
Spending four paragraphs making notes on Billy Zane might be overkill, but the way he amplifies the film’s entertainment value by the power of ten cannot be overstated. This is the benefit a movie earns from having an experienced talent on a long leash who eagerly swallows scenery in generous bites. It’s not as if a script would ever specifically say, “and the producer chews on a slice of watermelon during the scene” or “pretends to choke his lackey in the background.” His character has quirks that come from Zane’s commitment to make things as interesting as he can, and not from any other source.
Apparently ageless Lacey Chabert, herself a vet of Syfy creature features such as “Scarecrow” (review here), is always a welcome presence. Though frankly, her part in “Ghost of Goodnight Lane” could have been played by anyone given how straightforward it is. The same is true of most of the additional roles in the film, nearly all of which are played by competent actors who just aren’t given the same character types to measure up to Zane’s personality.
The only out of place actor is the man who plays a hippie cult leader in flashback sequences. He is the lone member of the cast playing his part as if he is in a straight comedy, and his overacted expressions are a distraction befitting of a Three Stooges short.
The back of the DVD box boasts “Ghost of Goodnight Lane” as “a horror film fan’s dream … an homage to the greatest kills in the genre.” Although those lines appear between quotation marks, an attribution of the statement to anyone in particular is conspicuously absent. Which means that the anonymous claim is really Marketing’s sneaky way of exonerating the film’s ripped-off kill shots as intentional.
Deliberate or not, “Ghost of Goodnight Lane” does indeed contain a number of nods to previous horror films. Freddy Krueger’s shadow falls over a latex-like door when an angry demon pushes violently to rip through. The ghost itself has the familiar pallor of a J-horror poltergeist with long stringy hair. Everything still passes as mostly serviceable horror movie beats, although they are undercut somewhat by visual effects that are far from state-of the art.
The more horrific aspects of the haunting take their time breaking out. While the buildup is spent in the company of a likable cast, it does not make for the scariest possible ghost story slasher. As clunky as it can be though, “Ghost of Goodnight Lane” has memorable moments including a fistfight between Lacey Chabert and Scream Queen Danielle Harris, and a weird reveal about the ghost’s family tree that is either nutty or brilliant, I can’t decide.
“Ghost of Goodnight Lane” is barely frightening, and the scenes that try their hardest to be scary are often gobbled by CGI enhancements biting off more than they should. But with no small thanks to Billy Zane, who contributes an effort on par with the one he put into “Demon Night,” a spirited cast takes modest material and finds clever ways to pull out entertainment through creative characterization.
NOTE: There is a mid-credits scene.
Review Score: 65