Ghosts of Darkness (2017)
A New Breed Of Ghost Hunter
A ghost movie! I don't think I really need to elaborate much beyond that for us to temper our expectations before going into this one. I expect multiple ghosts (given the title), and according to the box blurb a haunted house - not of the carnival variety - and conflicting ghost hunters. I don't recall hearing of it largely, so I'm not expecting blockbuster grade effects or anything of that sort - but then again, I still imagine the little ghosts that could should be able to pull off better than Asylum grade. Grab those vacuum cleaners, it's time to scope out this haunted mansion.
Our movie starts up by setting up the fact that truthfully this house is in fact haunted. Sure, our mother character doesn't believe the child that there's a beast in her closet, but it's not long before the movie says "the closet eyes don't care about your beliefs" and eats the daughter. The next morning, a now possessed daughter decides to murder the crap out of her parents with a knife, than stab herself in the back multiple times - totally normal morning right? Well, not only does this set us up a few things - the sort of effects to anticipate, the level of acting - but it also forms the concrete foundation of why our main characters will be getting involved - at least as far as the movie's timeline wants us to know at that point.
Now, it's good that I can inform you that not everything stays at the same quality of the beginning - because whew, man, some of that isn't very good at all. The acting is pretty down, and although we won't entirely shake the fact later on in the movie, there are at least one or two performances that are effectively delivered enough that they don't feel like a whole lot of not trying. I'm not intentionally trying to knock on the actors or anything like that - it's nothing personal after all - but it's mostly all not very great. "Budget Depp," as I like to call the psychic character, does a pretty decent job of at least being entertaining with his performance and even feeling quite well done at times. Beyond him though, our other lead (who honestly has the far more emotionally-charge role) comes up lacking, maybe in part to not having a great amount of feeling in the line delivery, or maybe it's just his overall body language - I'm not sure entirely.
The large portion of the movie is just those two, often feeling like the camera favoring the later over the psychic. Their chemistry is decent enough - at least as well enough as it can be with one being a bit of a wooden leg I'd wager - but the film doesn't fully utilize the parts they have strewn about. The potential for the interactions between the "non-believing science-based ghost hunter" and "psychic medium guy" aren't exactly a new thing, but at the same time this one really seemed like it might try and go there a couple times. Unfortunately, most of those parts never really pan out, and the two follow almost more of a buddy-cop relationship spread as the movie progresses - starting with the two being jerks to one another, ending with them being all buddies-in-arms against the haunts.
Those haunts are a bit of a mixed bag as well. I'm happy to report that makeup and effect-wise they look great. I can't tell if it was done with masks or some computer magic after hand, but the distortion applied to a few of their heads really helps make them feel a bit more bizarre without looking too outlandish. Beyond that, you have the suitable and typical blood and injuries, even the anticipated "demon eyes" red contacts. It all looks very well done, even (for the most part) the biggest, most evil entity in the house. The eyes of such are actually quite an interesting design, making them seem very provocative of old scary basement furnaces. On the non-spook side of things, they actually found a pretty decent reason for not needing multiple outfits, but make up for the plainness of the outfits by having all sorts of little accessories - from salt to recorders and motion sensors.
A good chunk of presentation doesn't go above or beyond what you'd expect from a ghost movie. The classic "it's there but not when you turn around" sort of thing floats about, as does the doors moving by themselves - which at this point I don't know if that sort of thing really frightens people any more. It is nice, however, to notice almost by accident some of the far more subtle things the creators have put into this. Little tiny things, such as someone's breath being visible for seemingly no reason, or in one of my more favorable moments something being visible in the background mirror that isn't visible to the psychic as he's jotting down notes from his spirit board. It's incredibly nice to see things like that - and honestly it is one of the things that the Paranormal Activity series did a good job of fitting in - without the complete and utter drawing out of time between happenings.
The pacing does have a bit of a lull in the second segment - where it's taking the time to introduce us to the now main players - but even then it doesn't take too long to throw in those soft spooks that are obvious (or subtle) without necessarily resorting to jump scare misdirects. I mean, it does have one of those as well, but it largely resorts to being obvious about it's scares without feeling fake. Towards the finale, things do get a little bit hectic as the onslaught of every ghost happens in succession, leading to the final act being far more action than straight horror, but it still handles it well.
This one ended up being better than I thought. Although I wouldn't give it too much praise - some of the acting is rather meh at best - I can thankfully say that it's at least something that was enjoyable. I could see myself re-watching it with a group of friends in a more social setting, but admittedly with half the acting being not quite as enjoyable as the other I don't think I could throw the same claim out for a solo revisit. Probably worth a visit once if violence doesn't bother you (there a decent enough amount of blood in it, although I'd argue it's not as overly crazy as elevators of blood or anything like that) just for some of the finer moments and to appreciate the ghost work and psychic's performance.