Sunday 12 March 2023

Netflix And Chill: We Have A Ghost (2023)

The trailer for We Have A Ghost didn't make it look that good, but I decided to give it a go anyway. I'm optimistic/stupid like that. Often. Anyway, not to beat around the bush, the film is as bad as the trailer makes it out to be. Maybe even worse.

Adapted from a short story by Geoff Manaugh, this is the tale of a family moving into a house and finding out, as you may have already guessed, that they have a ghost. His name is Ernest (David Harbour), although that might just be the name on the shirt he is wearing. While Ernest starts to form a firm friendship with Kevin (Jahi Winston), it's not long until dad, Frank (Anthony Mackie), upsets things by trying to capitalise on the situation, making use of viral videos to hopefully make the situation profitable. Kevin really wants to help Ernest, but Frank seems to just want to help himself (and, by extension, the family bank balance). All of the interest in Ernest, and the house, draws young Joy (a neighbour, played by Isabella Russo) into the situation, and piques the interest of a long-time ghost hunter named Dr. Leslie Monroe (Tig Notaro).

Written and directed by Christopher Landon, who has given us a few enjoyable genre mash-ups over the past few years (he helmed both Happy Death Day movies, as well as Freaky), We Have A Ghost is a hugely disappointing mess. If you want something that mixes ghosts with a mystery thriller, adding quirky characters and a real emotional heart to everything, then the gold standard is still The Frighteners, which I encourage everyone to watch ahead of this. Instead of focusing on how to better balance the different aspects of the plot, Landon instead seems to become preoccupied with showing how quickly a ghost would be embraced by everyone on social media. 

The cast aren't at fault, but they are restrained by a script that doesn't treat them as well as it should. Harbour, a likeable and charismatic actor, is given a role that doesn't allow him to speak, with one notable exception. Winston and Russo sometimes feel like the lead characters, but aren't fully trusted to carry the film. They do well though, despite some horribly misjudged moments forcing their relationship towards something more than just friends. Mackie is stuck having to play the selfish dad, Erica Ash plays the scared mother (her initial reaction to Ernest could have been pulled from a 1940s Universal movie, and I don't mean that in a good way), and Niles Fitch is enjoyably unfazed by things, playing Kevin's slightly older, and more vain, brother. Notaro is good in her role, but her role is rendered quite redundant by the third act, and both Tom Bower and Steve Coulter take on the most predictable roles in the whole movie. Seriously, you will have their character journeys fully plotted out by the time you first see them.

There are a few good moments here and there, particularly the scenes that have Winston and Russo fast becoming firm friends, and a sequence featuring Jennifer Coolidge is as fun as it is marred by horrible CGI, but there's far too much here that just doesn't work. The 2+ hour runtime should have been trimmed down, none of the music choices work (some of the score from Bear McCreary is okay, but attempted needle-drops miss the mark by a long way), and the third act is so unsatisfying that it will probably disappoint all but the most forgiving of viewers.

Viewers in just the right age bracket for this may enjoy it much more, young enough to enjoy the idea without being too young to be freaked out by the bits that try to be a bit more tense, but everyone else would do well to avoid this one. Like the central character, it's dead on arrival.


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