Thursday, May 23, 2013

#1,011. GhostWatcher (2002)

Directed By: David A. Cross

Starring: Jillian Byrnes, Marianne Hayden, Jennifer Servary

Tag line: "Some secrets can't stay buried forever"

Trivia:  For the scene where Jennifer Servary nearly falls off a ladder and is dangling over pitchforks, she did not use a stunt double

Ever since Paranormal Activity hit the scene in 2007, there’s been an influx of paranormal investigation films, many of questionable quality. Yet, despite the recent onslaught, I’m still a fan of the subgenre. I liked both The St. Francisville Experiment and Grave Encounters, a couple of “found-footage” style horror films dealing with ghost-hunting, and other entries, like 1408 (a 2007 movie based on a work by Stephen King) and Ti West’s The Innkeepers, effectively incorporated paranormal research into their stories. Sure, there have been plenty of stinkers along the way (Documenting the Grey Man was truly awful), but when they’re good, these movies can scare the hell out of me.

Which brings us to 2002’s GhostWatcher, a low-budget horror picture written and directed by David A. Cross. For the past year, Laura (Jillian Byrnes), who suffers from agoraphobia, has barricaded herself inside her apartment, refusing to go outside. But when an angry ghost moves in with her, she decides it’s time to seek some help. Spurred on by her best friend, Nikki (Marianne Hayden), Laura contacts Elizabeth Dean (Jennifer Servary), an online stripper who sells paranormal detection equipment on the side. Unsure what to make of her new client, Elizabeth starts digging into Laura’s past, uncovering clues that suggest Laura and Nikki may be hiding a terrible secret.

GhostWatcher features a handful of segments involving paranormal research, but mostly, it centers on the mystery surrounding Laura, and why she’s being tormented by a ghost. A good portion of the film is devoted to Elizabeth’s investigation, and a few of these scenes generate real tension (especially one that’s set inside a barn). The movie’s best sequence, however, happens early on, when Laura first realizes she’s not alone (during a heavy thunderstorm, she has an encounter with an aggressive spirit that follows her through the apartment).

GhostWatcher contains some genuinely creepy moments, and enough twists in its story to keep you guessing. Unfortunately, the last couple of twists are beyond ridiculous (the final one will have you rolling your eyes in disbelief). This, along with the fact the movie has an overall staginess to it, and performances that range from mediocre to serviceable, prevents GhostWatcher from being anything more than an average horror film.

Of course, in this particular subgenre, being "average" isn't necessarily a bad thing!

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