We Have a Ghost12
With the phenomenal success Netflix have had with Stranger Things, it’s no wonder they bought into this ghost story.
And by taking a classic haunted house theme as your starting off point, as this film does, and even including a cast member from said successful show, and you would think it’s a winner. You would think wrong.
Moving into a large old house in Chicago is Kevin Presley (Jahi Winston), his brother Fulton (Niles Fitch) and his mom (Erica Ash) and Dad (Anthony Mackie).
It’s an impressive house, especially considering how incredibly cheap it was. A little too cheap for mom, as it gets her wondering. And so she should, as it transpires that it has an actual ghost living there.
First to notice is Kevin, who doesn’t fall for its scare tactics, and ends up communicating with him as best he can, considering his inability to talk. But with his name on his overalls, Kevin knows he’s Ernest (David Harbour), who has little memory of his time alive.
Kevin decides that he will do a little digging, to find out what happened to him. Meanwhile, Ernest is finally discovered by the rest of the family, who have one thing on their mind – to make him a social media sensation.
With all the attention he’s now getting, Kevin is keen to discover not only more about Ernest, but more importantly, how he died.
Friendly ghosts seem to be in vogue at the moment, especially with the BBC comedy series Ghosts having also been picked up for a US version (with both versions currently available on the BBC iPlayer).
Certainly Ernest would fit right at home with any of those ghosts, as despite his impressive size, he’s got that Casper thing going on of being real friendly.
Now here’s the peculiar thing – at no point does Ernest speak. Ever. Although the script is based on a short story, presumably where Ernest never speaks, but for a big budget Netflix feature, it feels a missed opportunity. Especially as the film is keen to explore the family dynamic, particularly that of Presley father and son. And obviously it becomes more difficult for the main character to express himself when he lacks the inability to talk. It would be understandable if he was some kind of creature that didn’t speak English, but Ernest is very much a human ghost, and the fact that he doesn’t speak definitely holds the film back.
But perhaps it wouldn’t matter that much anyway, as Christopher Landon’s direction is borderline cringey. It’s all very up tempo, with the kind of energy that could be found in a generic live action Disney romp in the eighties. It’s all too bouncy and it feels very old skool in a very bad way.
He also shoots himself in the foot, by being fortunate enough to have the hugely in demand Jennifer Coolidge appear in the film, but sadly in a role that is all too brief, and doesn’t allow her to be at her kooky, quirky best, which is definitely a missed opportunity.
It’s also pretty much an updated version of E.T, but even he could speak, which helped give that film its charm. The only thing missing is a scene squashed into a front wheel basket on a bike flying in front of a full moon, but only because they probably couldn’t find a basket big enough.
And although there just doesn’t seem enough films about ghosts these days – with even the recent entries in the Ghostbusters franchise disappointingly lame – this effort doesn’t help any.
It’s overlong, unoriginal and tired looking from the off, making it a lacklustre spectre truly worth not seeing.