I am always looking for a new, good horror-comedy. For me, a movie that toes the line between disturbing and hilarious makes the jokes funnier and the scary parts even more horrifying. Hulu advertises Ghost Team as an energetic comedy about a group of amateur paranormal investigators. The movie actually is a lowkey indie ensemble drama about friendship and escaping the drudgery of everyday life.
From the title, you can probably guess the basic premise of Ghost Team. Louis is a thirtysomething owner of a print and copy shop, who feels like he is wasting his life. Living on Louis’s couch is his best friend Stan, who was left at the altar by his fiancée and truly believes that she was abducted by aliens. When Louis’s favorite paranormal investigation show, Ghost Getters, has a contest that gives whoever submits the best paranormal footage a permanent spot on the team, Louis knows he has to try. He gets his opening once an old man comes in asking for no trespassing signs because he keeps hearing strange, inexplicable noises in his house. Determined to win the competition, Louis gathers Stan for backup, his nephew and electronics store clerk Zak, for equipment, his work friend who he has a crush on, Ellie, for research, TV psychic Victoria for communing with the ghosts, and overzealous mall cop Ross for security. Once they get to the old man’s remote house, chaos ensues. One by one, team members go missing. It’s up to Louis and Ellie to save their team.
Based on the trailer, I thought this movie would have a lot of jokes. I also kind of assumed that it would have the same absurdist comedic tone of the lead actor’s best known movie, Napoleon Dynamite. Instead, the movie took on a pretty serious tone. I could count on one hand the number of times I laughed while watching this movie. Furthermore, the start of the movie actually made me pretty sad. I felt bad for Louis, who clearly wants more from his life, and for Stan, who is now living out of his car. None of the jokes were over-the-top (except for those regarding Ross, Justin Long’s character), so it was really clear how dissatisfied every character was with their life. In my opinion, this also added to the heart of the movie. Each character had realistic motivations, and it made sense how they all interacted with each other. I just wish that the ads for the movie marketed it less as a straight-up comedy.
Good Things About It
To me, the funniest actor in this movie was Justin Long. Even so, every single actor gave a fantastic performance. I mean, David Krumholtz made me feel empathy for a delusional conspiracy theorist (and you cannot convince me that he and Jake Johnson aren’t long lost twin brothers). I also thought that Melonie Diaz, playing Ellie, was a standout. Another thing I liked about this movie was the aesthetic. The film is very stylized, which is best highlighted by a montage at the beginning that shows how boring Louis’s life is. The scenes in the house during the investigation were just nice to look at. I found myself taking a lot of screenshots during this movie, which I don’t usually do. I wish more ghost movies took this route, rather than being very dark and poorly lit. Finally, I think the ending is extremely clever.
Ghost Team had a lot of heart. It had a great aesthetic, solid performances, and a unique twist ending. Unfortunately, this movie just did not live up to my horror comedy expectations. It was never too funny or too scary, which overall made for a pretty lackluster film. Still, if you have Hulu and are looking to kill some time, maybe give Ghost Team a shot.(3 / 5)
Horror Noire, a Film Review
Horror Noire is a horror collection that includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.”
Horror Noire is a horror collection brought by the combined efforts of AMC+ and Shudder. The collection includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.” Horror Noire boasts Black directors and screenwriters, providing six unique stories.
As this collection explores six stories, I will skip the usual synopsis to assess the genres and ideas explored, albeit limited as needed. Expect to find supernatural horror, creature features, and psychological thrillers. Many short films deal with these genres while exploring Black issues, but this isn’t universal for the collection.
The directors and writers include Zandashé Brown, Robin Givens, Rob Greenlea, Kimani Ray Smith, Steven Barnes, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Tananarive Due, Shernold Edwards, Victor LaValle, and Al Letson.
What I Like
Each story remains unique, holding different strengths and weaknesses that highlight drastically different perspectives. Collections like VHS hold a similar premise to create their collection, but Horror Noire gives more creative freedom to its talent to be independent.
My personal favorite short film is Zandashé Brown’s “Bride Before You.” This period piece unravels a fable set in the Reconstruction Era. The entry feels Fabulistic in approach, which happens to be my preferred niche.
However, the best example of horror goes to Robin Givens’ “Daddy,” providing an existential horror tied directly to the characters involved.
What I Dislike
As mentioned, all have a particular style and idea. The downside of this approach always remains to keep the viewer interested long enough to find their favorite. If you find several underwhelming choices, this becomes a chore. But I imagine that is rare as the variety makes the options refreshing.
Personally, “Brand of Evil” had an interesting premise, but the execution fell short. On paper, it might have sounded like my favorite, which makes the lackluster execution a bigger letdown.
Horror Noire gives power and control to Black creators, providing a formula for a unique collection against others in the space. While the various subjects and approaches mean you aren’t likely to love them all, there should be a short film for everyone.
(3.5 / 5)
Episode six of Netflix’s Dahmer was not, honestly about our title character. Instead, it was about one of his victims, a man named Tony. We’ve actually seen Tony a few times during this series. We just didn’t know it was him.
And, well, he wasn’t exactly alive the first time we saw him.
Tony was born into a supportive, loving family. This is good because soon after he was born a viral infection took his hearing. He is black, deaf, and gay in the early 90’s.
Tony has a dream of becoming a model. And he certainly has the looks for it. He is beautiful, body and soul. He has lots of opportunities for romance, but it’s not what he’s looking for. He wants a real relationship.
Eventually Tony moves to Madison, trying to pursue his dream. He gets a job and starts getting modeling work.
Then, he meets Jeff Dahmer at a bar.
At first, we can almost believe that it’s going to be alright. Jeff seems happy. He’s taking care of himself. He’s not drinking as much. He even has his dad and stepmom over for dinner. It seems like his life is getting on track. Even better, he’s treating Tony right.
Then, of course, things go bad.
One thing that has always bothered me as a true crime fan is that we know so much about the killers, but not as much about the victims. Not so much if we don’t know who the killer is, of course. But the names that are part of our pop culture are those of the killers. Dahmer, Manson, Jones, Bundy, Holms. The names we don’t know are Roberta Parks, Beth LaBiancas, Leno LaBiancas, and Tony Hughes. And clearly, we should know them.
If Tony Hughes was half the shining, positive person that the show Dahmer made him out to be, I’m so sad that he isn’t with us anymore. We need so many more people like him. And many of Dahmer’s victims were likely just like him. After all, he was attracted to them for a reason.
This was a significant episode, and I understand why it’s the highest-rated episode of the series. I finished it with a heavy heart, saddened by the loss of a man who should still be with us today.(5 / 5)
Mandrake, a Film Review
Mandrake is a 2022 supernatural horror directed by Lynne Davison and written by Matt Harvey, starring Deirdre Mullins and Derbhle Crotty.
Mandrake is a 2022 supernatural horror directed by Lynne Davison and written by Matt Harvey. This film boasts a cast that includes Deirdre Mullins, Derbhle Crotty, and Paul Kennedy. It is currently available for subscribers in DirectTV, Shudder, Amazon Prime, or AMC+.
Cathy Madden (Deirdre Mullins) is a probation officer tasked with the most vilified case in her town, Mary Laidlaw (Derbhle Crotty). When a child goes missing, all eyes turn to the infamous Bloody Mary. Cathy, always believing in the best of people, tries to protect Mary. But evidence begins to mount, and Cathy finds herself in increasing danger.
What I Like
Deirdre Mullins and Derbhle Crotty add weight to the film in their performances. Cathy proves resilient against the challenges she faces, while Mary can make any actions intimidating.
To not spoil anything, the ending is bittersweet in the best of ways, showing Cathy grow and mend relationships.
The atmosphere around Mary Laidlaw brings about the intimidation that earns the nickname Bloody Mary. It becomes easier to see why a town would fear this woman as we find her motives sinister.
What I Dislike
While there may be external magical elements, I found people obeyed Mary Laidlaw a little too easily for a vilified woman. There wasn’t enough for me to be convinced she intimidated them to action or magically charmed them. Or perhaps the performances felt underwhelmingly passive?
There was an irritating moment where a stalker helped save the day. The assistance is minor, but it still irritates me.
The daytime scenes of the film are bland. Perhaps it’s intentional, but the night scenes are stunning, making the contrast greater. While this film focuses on its night scenes, I couldn’t understand why it looked so bland, and sometimes poor quality, in the day.
Mandrake can be a frightful enjoyment, especially when set at night where the details work. However, many elements left me wanting more or better. If you’re looking for a witchy tale, I’d say there are better options, but Mandrake can keep you entertained.
(2.5 / 5)