I'm always hesitant when I watch American movies set in other countries, primarily those that are in the horror genre; I'm thinking Hostel and The Grudge movies. These often base their premise on what we are supposed to believe are cultural beliefs which makes the stories that much scarier due to our own ignorance. Hostel came under some fire due to promoting a false perception of another country, possibly damaging business coming from tourism. The Grudge placed a lot of emphasis on the Japanese belief that when someone dies in a fit of rage or sorrow, this gives birth to a curse that works almost like a plague to those who enter where they died. I personally have never been to Japan or Slovakia (where Hostel takes place), but I am to believe what I'm seeing has to be partially true. They both give us citizens with a certain attitude and allows the setting to become a character in itself. Director Rich Ragsdale gives us GHOST HOUSE, another entry into the vacation gone wrong subgenre where Americans are too gullible to see what's in front of them.
Jim and Julie are a young couple vacationing in Thailand. They are introduced to ghost houses, small man-made homes (think bird houses) that are meant to help bring happiness to spirits. If the spirit doesn't have one of these homes, they they are known to get angry and seek shelter in the living. Julie is a photographer and finds these to be a great subject for her hobby. They encounter a couple of British guys who are staying at the same hotel as them. They promise Jim and Julie a fun night out that involves drinking and strippers. The night ends at a graveyard for the ghost houses, but one of the British fellows has darker motives as he wraps Julie's scarf into one of the houses. This begins several episodes of terror for Julie as she starts to have visions of a burnt woman screaming at her, resulting in some great jump scares that I must commend. Jim makes it his mission to figure out what is wrong with her and how this connects to whatever the British guys did that night. Luckily, they have their cab driver, Gogo, who knows all there is to know about ghost houses and helps these two get down to the bottom of it.
What initially drew me to GHOST HOUSE was that it was a new original movie starring Scout Taylor Compton, known primarily as Rob Zombie's version of Laurie Strode for his take on the Halloween series. I'm a huge fan of Zombie's Halloween 2, due to a fresh take on Michael Meyers and an interesting relationship between genetics and mental health. Compton really delivered on someone dealing with survivor's guilt and her reaction to discovering she is (spoiler alert!) Michael's sister.
While she initially gets to charm us during the first 30 minutes of GHOST HOUSE, she spends the rest of the movie screaming nonstop as she continues to have nightmares and is stalked by a presence no one else can see. The movie is beautifully shot and has some great scares, but feels a bit too long thanks to its pacing issues. Unnecessary back stories create filler material that takes away from an actual interesting story. The movie would benefit from keeping things simple and avoiding CGI that plagues some of the later scenes.
GHOST HOUSE will be in select theaters and VOD on August 25th from Vertical Entertainment.