The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Ghost House

Ghost House is very excited to show you a foreign land. It's also excited to display some horrific visuals. What it's not very interested in, though, is telling a worthwhile story. The movie contains only a bare-bones plot that feels cribbed from dozens of other genre flicks. That sense of familiarity mixes with a travelogue's pacing to ensure that chills are kept to a bare minimum.

Scout Taylor-Compton and James Landry Hebert play Julie and Jim, a young couple vacationing in Thailand. Jim takes the occasion to propose marriage. They end up journeying into the countryside with two Brits they meet. The goal is to see the “ghost houses,” little birdhouse-like structures designed as tributes to the dead. Julie naively tampers with one, leading her to be followed by an evil spirit that makes her hallucinate. Jim has to find a way to help her get rid of the thing. That's pretty much all there is to it.

Ghost House has flat, one-dimensional characters. We know almost nothing about the couple before Julie gets haunted, so actively caring about what happens to them is virtually impossible. Taylor-Compton is a good screamer, and she does what she can with the material, but that doesn't compensate for the fact that Julie's possession carries no weight. She's just an unlucky tourist. The film would have been so much better giving us a reason to care about her ordeal, beyond the fact that it's totally ruining her engagement.

As for her predicament, it consists of the usual cliches – an old witchy-looking woman, lanky figures that contort in weird ways when they move, etc. If you've seen The Grudge, The Conjuring 2, The Babadook, or roughly half the other horror movies from the last fifteen years, most of the “shock” moments will look familiar to you. One of the ways of ditching the ghost, meanwhile, is ripped right out of The Ring.

Ghost House is a weirdly xenophobic chiller. The underlying message seems to be that foreign countries with a lot of non-white people are dangerous. Half the Thai characters are creepy – Julie is literally spooked by a woman with a lazy eye – or blessed with special knowledge of the paranormal. At one point, Jim enlists a cab driver named Gogo (Michael S. New) to help him rid Julie of her curse. Gogo takes him to see his relatives, who know all about admonishing demons back to Hell. Apparently, the movie thinks that Thailand is a haven for otherworldly danger where no one is simply normal.

Directed by Rich Ragsdale, Ghost House has some good visuals, especially in the last ten minutes, which spontaneously go for broke. The big finale delivers the kind of throw-caution-to-the-wind, over-the-top fun the rest of the picture is too sluggish to muster up. (I literally increased my rating by half a star just because of the ending.) It's all too little, too late, however. The other 89 minutes of Ghost House are so routine and substance-free that no last-minute miracle can make a difference.

( 1/2 out of four)

Ghost House is unrated, but contains graphic violence, sexuality/nudity, and strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 39 minutes.

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