Nathan Bramble’s new “Ghost Hunters” continues the winning streak which the young Pennsylvania filmmaker has enjoyed in creating original and intriguing short documentaries. His new work focuses on an eclectic subculture which seeks evidence of ghosts via audio, video and photographic recording devices. The resulting film only runs 21 minutes but offers more wit, skill and food-for-thought than many feature films currently in release.
“Ghost Hunters” follows two sets of spook-seekers: the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society (which needs to sneak in cemeteries at night following complaints from the families of the deceased on whose graves they tip-toe) and the Pennsylvania Ghost Hunters Society, who can claim home turf advantage to what is billed as the most haunted land in America, the Gettsyburg Battlefield. Footage from the International Ghost Hunters Society’s annual conference is also included here, offering a quirky line-up of kooky characters with personalities eccentric enough to frighten away ghosts rather than attract them.
“Ghost Hunters” never goes into depth on why these people are hunting for ghosts…but quite frankly, this omission is to its benefit as the viewer is literally plunged into the chase with a bounty that could whet the appetite of anyone with a taste for the macabre and ghoulish. The film never gets to see a ghost of its own, and some of the evidence presented here from earlier hunts can raise eyebrows and stir debate (especially photographs where stray balls of light are immediately seized upon as evidence of ghosts). However, some evidence requires more than a flippant wisecrack to dismiss (especially two brief, eerie audio recordings where disembodied voices can be faintly heard wailing “I’m not dead” and “Hug me”) and offer a chilling peek into a potential parallel world.
The film also takes the viewer on several late-night searches, and these scenes are wonderfully spooky in how they are produced. Shot in a harsh black-and-white video where the eyes of the ghost hunters are turned dead-white from the light on Bramble’s camera, the hunters actually look more like their intended prey. And speaking of being hunted, there is a truly funny sequence which finds an unexpected car pulling up to the twilight-active New Jersey ghost hunters as they ramble through a graveyard. The hunters initially fear it is a police car and the leader of the group unhappily realizes she left her ID at home. Mercifully, the ghost hunters breathe a collective sigh of relief when it is revealed that it’s only the teenage son of the cemetery owner who politely asks them to leave.
“Ghost Hunters” also provides further evidence on the true potential of digital video technology when used by the right artist. Nathan Bramble was virtually a one-man band on this film, wearing multiple hats behind the camera during the production (using a Sony DV camera) and editing the film on a home PC. The result is a technically professional achievement which would fit perfectly into any festival or TV line-up, and many aspiring DV filmmakers would gain immeasurably by studying this compact, on-target short film.