Rich Ragsdale’s Ghost House is a Bangkok-set horror that looks to take its audience through an edge-of-your-seat terror ride, with genre fave Scout Taylor-Compton front-and-centre as plentiful horror tropes assemble throughout the picture. Is this eerie tale worth checking out, or is this a jaunt that it’s best to take a pass on? Let’s find out.
As mentioned, Scout Taylor-Compton heads up the cast here, as her Julie and partner Jim (James Landry Hebert) decide to embark on a vacation to Thailand. For Julie, her main M.O. is to spend time with her beau while simultaneously using this trip as a way to explore and photograph some truly stunning scenery. For Jim, his plans for the trip involve proposing to his other half. Young love, eh? Ain’t it sweet. Unfortunately for this unsuspecting pair, a sinister twist is lurking just around the corner. Befriending Brits Robert (Russell Geoffrey Banks) and Billy (Richard Gray), the action soon turns to booze and breasts as some of the notorious bright lights of Bangkok are explored. The party doesn’t last though, and it’s not long before Julie ends up accidentally disrespecting what’s dubbed a ‘ghost house’, in turn becoming victim to the spirit that’s tied to said house.
To veer any further in to plot details would likely verge on spoiler territory, so we’ll slow things down on that front. Safe to say, it’s a race against the clock for Jim to save his newly-anointed fiancée as she battles for her very life. Advice is sought, Shamans arise – as played by Mark Boone Junior – and an interesting quandary presents itself for the end-of-his-tether Jim.
Here, Rich Ragsdale has a mixed bag of a movie. To his credit, Ragsdale has a brilliant eye for style and substance in his approach to filmmaking, giving the low budget film a more sleek, bigger budget feel. Ragsdale also makes the very most out of the Thailand location, be that to give the movie a shot of energy and natural beauty, or to bring the action down to the murky depths of horror territory. Similarly, the director pulls double duty and does a mesmerising job with the sound and score of the picture. With just a few nods to classic John Carpenter (which is never a bad thing, right?), Ragsdale masterfully drops in the right notes and beats to help accentuate what we see unravelling on the screen. But while it looks and sounds absolutely jaw-dropping at times, sadly the story itself is a little less impressive.
In terms of set-up, Ghost House actually does a pretty good job of drawing you in and getting you to care about its core duo. Unfortunately, by the third act you may find yourself tuning out a little, as the action just becomes, well, a tad uneventful and feels a little lacking when it comes to genuine scares. Sure, there are jump scares dotted through the film, and they work fine for what they’re needed, but the movie seems to struggle to serve up any feeling of true dread once the cat is out of the bag.
Where the performances are concerned, that’s again a mixed bag for Ghost House. The lead pairing of Scout Taylor-Compton and James Landry Hebert work really well together, putting in genuine, sincere performances that have you rooting for them in the early goings. After coming on to genre fans' radars with her turn as Laurie Strode in Rob Zombie’s so-so Halloween pictures, Taylor-Compton in particular manages to stand out from the crowd during the opening act, bringing a warmth and likeability to Julie and once again marking her out as a talent to keep your eye on when it comes to modern-day horror. Then when her spooky troubles really start, Taylor-Compton again highlights why she's viewed as one of the best in the game when it comes to screams and terror these days. For Hebert, he gets to really showcase some impressive range as he frantically has to somehow find a way to save his wife-to-be. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast aren’t quite up to the standards set by the headlining duo. Michael S. New does well once you get used to his enthusiastic taxi driver-cum-tour guide Gogo, while Mark Boone Junior’s Reno just seems a little out of place with the tone at play in Ghost House. Richard Gray as Billy is passable, but his on-screen pal Russell Geoffrey Banks is simply awful. Coming across like a spoof of Harry H. Corbett’s Harold Steptoe meets Alan Rickman’s Metatron from Dogma, Banks brings the film down whenever he’s on screen. His character of Robert itself isn’t written particularly badly, it’s just that the performance on show falls flat and almost tongue-in-cheek at times.
All in all, Ghost House offers little that you’ve not seen before, but it still manages plenty to offer horror hounds who are looking for an easy way to spend 90 minutes. And given that this is one of director Rich Ragsdale’s first full feature films, he’s definitely shown enough promise here to suggest he could do great things if afforded a better screenplay.
GHOST HOUSE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: RICH RAGSDALE / SCREENPLAY: KEVIN O’SULLIVAN, JASON CHASE TYRRELL / STARRING: SCOUT TAYLOR-COMPTON, JAMES LANDRY HEBERT, MICHAEL S. NEW, RUSSELL GEOFFREY BANKS, RICHARD GRAY, MARK BOONE JUNIOR / RELEASE DATE: MAY 28TH