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Friday, April 10, 2009

GHOSTS OF GOLDFIELD -- DVD review by porfle

I didn't like the film version of THE SHINING, so any horror movie about ghosts in a big old hotel is going to have to outdo Kubrick in order to win me over. (Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration.) And like the little engine that could, GHOSTS OF GOLDFIELD (2009) huffs and puffs its little heart out trying to do just that. But despite the best efforts of all involved, it never really builds up much steam.

Julie (Marnette Patterson of "Charmed") is a psych major who's doing a thesis on ghosts, so she rounds up some college friends to help her shoot a film inside the haunted Goldfield Hotel, situated in a ghost town in the middle of the Nevada desert. The main reason the place is haunted is because long ago, the rich bastard who built it tortured his mistress Elizabeth (Ashly Rae) to death in one of the rooms after finding out she was cheating on him with the hotel's bartender. He also tossed the couple's illegitimate baby down a mine shaft (what a sweet guy!), so now Elizabeth's ghost roams the corridors wailing "Where's my baby?" (And no, dingos are not involved.)

There's some other stuff mentioned about the hotel being a portal between the worlds of the living and the dead, but nothing much ever comes of this. And the fact that Elizabeth (who resembles Juliette Lewis after a bad weekend) seems to be the only ghost in the whole place for much of the movie really cuts down on the haunt factor. First-time director Ed Winfield displays little skill at building suspense or putting together effective scare sequences, while the cast seem unable to convincingly convey extreme emotions when necessary. Even their casual banter often seems awkwardly improvised, though much of the blame for this is probably due to the writers not giving them much to work with.

Besides Julie, there's her straitlaced boyfriend Dean (Scott Whyte), nice-guy cameraman Chad (TWILIGHT's Kellan Lutz), obligatory jackass Mike (Richie Chance), who stays drunk most of the time and likes to jump out and scare people, and Keri (Mandy Amano), the whiner who's constantly griping about being hungry or tired when she isn't swiping stuff from the hotel to sell on eBay. You know your cast isn't too impressive when the best performance comes from "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, who plays Elizabeth's secret lover Jackson Smith (in flashback) with something resembling two strips of beef jerky glued to his jowls to represent old-timey sideburns.


As expected, members of the group begin to wander off by themselves down dark, spooky corridors as soon as they enter the hotel. Director Winfield relies heavily on shots of mysterious figures flitting past the camera, clutching hands, and other familiar stuff to keep us on edge. The ghostly image of Elizabeth wandering around with her blazing red eyes, flowing white gown, and crazed expression are somewhat effective at times. Late in the story we begin to get a few gory kill scenes, but nothing very elaborate. Also as expected, nobody is able to get a signal on their cell phones! It's inevitable nowadays that horror movies must deal with this issue, and lately it seems more and more as though scriptwriters are simply saying "Screw it--the cell phones don't work."

The DVD is in 16x9 widescreen with 2.0 stereo sound. Direction and photography are average at best, and at times not very good. I viewed a screener with the movie only, but the release version promises a director's commentary, stills gallery, and trailers.

During the story, Julie begins to have visions of herself in the hotel during a past life, and her possible connection with Elizabeth's tragic demise leads to a downbeat and somewhat surprising finale that sends the movie off on a high note. GHOSTS OF GOLDFIELD is an okay time-waster if you're not in a very demanding mood; otherwise, chances are you'll find it more tame and tedious than scary.


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2 comments:

jimmie t. murakami said...

it`s funny i thought the opposite, the ending was a bit of a let-down where-as the rest of the film was pretty good.

sales said...

I worked on this film as 2nd Unit Director and shot a major part of the film as camera operator and I can only say that there were some really disturbing and scary things happening during the shoot. That place is definitely haunted and gives you the creeps! I have never felt such negative energy in a location before.