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Monday, June 15, 2009

GHOST MONTH -- DVD review by porfle

Don't forget to mark your calendars, kids, because GHOST MONTH is about to roll around and you're in big trouble if you don't follow the rules. Rule number 1 is: don't whistle. Rule number 2: if a ghost whispers your name, don't turn around, because if you do then that makes the ghost pull one of those Asian-horror-movie jump scares that may seriously freak you out. And rule number 3 is: uh, something about not stepping in the pile of ash left from the burnt offerings to the ghosts. Like just about everything else, it tends to anger them.

I, myself, would add a fourth rule, which is: if you go to work as a housekeeper for a mysterious Chinese woman and her creepy aunt and you find out that their house contains an open gateway to Hell that has malevolent ghosts pouring out if it, you might want to consider finding another job.

The idiot who not only can't take a ghostly hint but manages to break all the rules in nothing flat is Alyssa, played by likable actress Marina Resa. Alyssa gets more interesting as the movie goes along, but at first the most exciting things she does are smiling real nice and neatly tucking her hair behind her ears. I have to admire Alyssa's calm demeanor--in one scene she'll have an intensely frightening ghostly experience, and in the next scene she's whistling cheerfully through her housework again. The ghosts often scare her into passing out, and Mrs. Wu and her aunt find her lying on the floor. This becomes such a frequent occurrence that Miss Wu finding Alyssa passed out cold on the floor almost becomes a household routine.

The main reason Alyssa keeps on working at Ghost Central is that she's being stalked by a scary former boyfriend, Jacob (Jerod Edington), so working for Miss Wu (Shirley To) in her beautiful Southwest-style mansion in the middle of the Nevada desert is a perfect hiding place. Until he tracks her down, that is, giving Alyssa even more to worry about than jack-in-the-box ghosts flying at her at an alarming rate. Miss Wu's enigmatic neighbor Blake (Rick Irvin), who knows more than he's telling about the disappearance of her previous housekeeper, is another concern.

What makes GHOST MONTH different from the standard cheapo scare flick, besides being well-directed and having some superb cinematography and locations, is that writer-director Danny Draven is trying his best to give us some of the same jolts that we get from Asian horror cinema. And for much of the film, he does this quite well. The movie has some really scary ghosts in it, appearing suddenly along with the usual loud musical stings and making us jump. Even when we expect it, such as the times Alyssa opens a door and we just know something will be behind it when she closes it again, these ghosts can still give us a real fright. I like the fact that this is achieved mainly through clever directing rather than tricky editing.

The biggest drawback to the film, in my opinion, is a tiresomely persistent musical score. Occasional silence can be an effective tool in this sort of film, and having non-stop music telling us what to feel at every turn is distracting. As for DVD extras, I watched a screener that didn't have any but I can list them--behind-the-scenes footage, a cast commentary track with Marina Resa, Shirley To, and Rick Irvin, an "Origins of Ghost Month" featurette, an interview with director Draven, bloopers, still gallery, and closed captioning. The film is presented in 16 x 9 anamorphic widescreen with 2.0 stereo sound. The closing credits look particularly cool.

Having Miss Wu and her aunt constantly praying and making burnt offerings to ward off the ghosts gives Draven a chance to introduce some familiar Asian elements, such as people being wrapped up in yards of long, black ghost hair. Revenge is a motivating factor for these restless spirits, and some of the characters get what's coming to them in interesting ways (one of which is a treat for Poe fans). Unfortunately, the story starts to run out of steam, as well as logic, towards the end and there's perhaps one climax too many. But for the most part I found GHOST MONTH to be a worthy effort that held my attention and managed to generate a respectable amount of bloodcurdling shocks. And it's nice to see someone create an original Asian-style ghost story instead of just knocking off another remake of one.

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Anonymous said...

I finally got to watch this film today, finally available for rental. Pretty good little movie and I am just thrilled at the fact that it's not a remake; rather, an original film with original storyline. I like the lead actress Alyssa, she's pretty hot.

Anonymous said...

I like this film, it has it's flaws in spots, but overall it was an enjoyable little indie film.

Anonymous said...

this is a remake. there's already an original one made in china or some sort. so your wrong about it being original. I watched the "ORIGINAL" one about two years ago. SO this one's a remake and I still wanna see the differences.

Faith said...

The person who commented about this being a remake is right I think, the original is called The Maid - it's downright fabulous!