When I was much younger, I loved reading about anything and everything about ghosts. It was such a sexy subject. I was enticed by the wide range of feelings such a being could invoke in people. Some would cause dread, some inspired hope or relief in those looking for closure…some had ghost pets they believed were the companion animals from a long dead tribe of Native Americans because they were THAT fucking lonely…
Eventually, just like Santa Claus, I had to accept that ghosts don’t exist. Unlike Santa however, ghosts gave me story ideas that lasted longer than the shitty knock off GI Joes poor kids finds under their trees. This “knowledge” seems to be widespread despite it’s like of testability/reproducibility/believability. Enter writer/director H. P. Mendoza, who apparently read the same books I read when I was younger. That or the psychic who told his mother to rearrange his initials to become more famous sold him a screenplay (all because they were psychic, and totally not because a certain famous early 20th century author had similar initials). And yes, the former part of this statement is true (IMDB true at least). The latter is because, well, fuck bullshit.
But I’m going to put aside whatever gripes I have about the unsound scientific gatherings, nowadays exacerbated by a couple of glorified plumbers, and judge this for what it is, a movie.
The only reason I brought up the whole issue of real “knowledge” about ghosts is because the bulk of I Am A Ghost explains what a ghost is. In most films, this is called ‘setting up a universe’ and is to be expected. Love it or hate it, one thing Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World gets right is establishing what the audience is getting themselves into. From the first frame, we’re introduced to the balls out craziness required to accept to get anything from the movie. I Am A Ghost succeeds in the same way, even though it’s inadvertently promoting pseudoscience garbage as it does so.
Again, I have to look at this as fiction. Ninety-nine percent of people who see this film will have no idea that the ideas presented are what a minute, but loud, group of people claim to be real. I really don’t know why his movie pissed me off so much; I love ghost movies!
It may have to do with the presentation. The whole thing feels like a student project that should be twenty-five minutes (including the awkward five minutes of sudden swinging dong), yet managed to stretch itself to seventy -one (minus credits). The editing runs the gambit of “still shots glued together” to “Aww, how cute! The filmmaker learned how to layer filters in Final Cut!” There’s long stretches of time without dialogue, including the first eight minutes, that should promote a sense of solidarity, yet comes off like some guy who just saw The Good, The Bad and The Ugly for the first time and wanted to copy it. Even the retro horror opening credits scream “this is he kind of movie I like and I want you to think I’m making one like it!” Which, you know, today we call a ‘homage’. ‘Homage’ is the ‘literally of the film world’. The definition used to mean ‘paying tribute to’, but now appears to mean ‘blatant ripoff to use as a crutch’.
When I wasn’t being bombarded with ‘art’, including shots ripped right from an Oculus Rift tech demo, I was left with something that was a cross between The Sopranos and Ghost. If this was a short film, I might have found a whiny ghost going to therapy interesting (yeah, the ghost is actually talking to a psychic, but the whole thing is about accepting reality in order to move on; sounds like therapy to me), but stretched out to its run time, I found myself getting bored. Does the plot need more tension or progress? Let’s review each scene again, complete with awkward cuts that are supposed to represent black outs, and only change SINGLE ASPECT of the next five minutes! Then we’ll do it again so the comparison will REALLY be hammered home! Every…fucking…time…
Then there’s Jeannie Barroga, the poor girl. She looks like a healthy version of Deb from Dexter, and has the talent to boot. I could see her in a HBO drama, possibly even in one where she wouldn’t need to flaunt her persian rug around, but here good dialogue comes around as often as an STD free whore in a Vegas dive. She converses well, uses her body to convey unsaid emotions, and consistently feels like someone going through a tough situation, then the script makes her say the most unconvincing bullshit. What’s with all the unnecessary big words? Is this supposed to convey the time period she lived in? And what fucking time would that be? Based on the type of bonnet she wore, the availability of electricity to utilize a radio, and the type of gas stove being used, I’d guess 1920s? Maybe the 1930s? Why do I have to dig into the deepest parts of my well of useless information to come up with a reason to explain why the fuck a character sounds like a nine-year old trying to sound twenty-three?!?
For all the shit I give it, I Am A Ghost isn’t terrible; it just rubs me the wrong way. I was biased going in (though that never seemed to affect me before), the presentation felt rough, and the writing was inconsistent in quality. I get the ideas H.P. Lovecraft, I mean, Mendoza is going for, but I need more than the ideas. This movie would have benefitted from either another draft or two to polish the script, or condensing it into something tighter. An argument could be made for the movie’s middling budget of around $10,000, but c’mon, if you watch enough up and coming Indie filmmakers, you’ve seen them utilize such a small amount of money. Clerks was made for the same amount, and while it has its own issues, it looks much better AND it was made during a time when there weren’t as many affordable (if any) digital resources available. I tried, but I just didn’t like it.
If I was asked about Jeannie Barroga’s performance, I’d suggest this as a part of a demo reel if it meant getting her more work. I’d also recommend it over H.P. Mendoza’s other work which involved a lot of sexual exploration. I hope that movie from this theme to horror was just a new creative outlet and not tied somehow to some inner issues he and his junk were working through…or do I? Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend this film to anyone but those looking for horror film that doubles as a character study, which is a niche category to be sure. Your mind-set needs to be in a place where what you want is to delve into the ideas being presented rather than the substance actually in front of you. I Am A Ghost is a discussion piece to be sure, but like that coffee table book you have about lamps, you’ll talk about it if people are around, but pick up something like Harry Potter to keep you busy.
Then again, this movie won an ass load of awards, so what the fuck do I know?