This review was originally published on January 22, 2013…
Everyone knows that Hollywood loves to bleed popular genres dry, so it comes as no surprise that when Paranormal Activity hit it big, there were multiple sequels, several found footage clones, and even a Wayans Brothers’ parody. And now there is Ghost Team One, a film that, instead of re-treading on what has already been done, takes a fresh approach to the found footage haunted house film. This film does for ghost films what Shaun of the Dead did for zombie films, managing to blend comedy with horror in a genuinely fresh way.
Brad and Sergio (J.R. Villarreal and Carlos Santos, respectively) are two goofball roommates who decide to make a documentary about a murder that happened in their house decades ago. The film is an attempt to impress and entice a girl, Fernanda (Fernanda Romero), who has shown an attraction to their potentially haunted house. Needing help, the guys employ a young filmmaker named Billy Chen to document the scary goings on. (I love this element of the film. Normally, these found footage films have a main character or a disembodied no-name holding the camera. This film makes the camera a true character, which I think is a nice touch, adding a personality to the whole fly-on-the-wall documentary style.)
What makes me love this film, other than the comedic moments and genuine scares, is the performances. All of the actors really give believable/human performances for something that can seem so silly. In most horror films, you have characters who will bravely go explore something scary or creepy going on. But, in a real life sort of way, these two guys are huge p*****s that will refuse to explore and will in some cases even run away. The way the guys bicker back and forth really hit a chord with me since it reminded me so much of the interaction I can have with my closest friends.
For example, Santos as Sergio has a brilliant scene where he breaks down and asks the rest of the team to pull out of this ghost hunt. Also, the third roommate of the house, Chuck (played to douche-tastic brilliance by Tony Cavalero) is a recently sober shut-in who occasionally posts YouTube testimonials about how much he hates Brad and Sergio. These testimonials are all hilarious and absurd and just add another layer of depth to these characters.
The ghost itself has a great back story too. I tend to write off many ghost stories since the films can have a tendency to pass the ghost genesis off as an after-thought. This film instead focuses on the ghost of an Asian prostitute, named Madame Azaelia, who once owned the house. It makes coincidental, yet appropriate, sense that it would be a prostitute ghost since the film is basically about two super h***y guys, adding an extra element to the themes of sex and debauchery found in the film.
Filmmakers Scott Rutherford and Ben Peyser take a shoestring budget and are able to ground a very high-concept. These guys were able to frame believable young male characters in a way that is pure comedy gold. I really only have one problem with the film.
The third act, while scary, feels slightly rushed compared to the amazing build of the rest of the film. I don’t want to give anything away, as I think you should see it and judge it for yourself, but I do have another issue with another element of the ending. Regardless, though, I really love this film and think it’s a scary, sexy ride.
This film might have a thinner budget than Paranormal Activity, but it is still capable of delivering genuine chills. Which is definitely a feat when it comes to a horror fan like me who has seen a great deal. If you like films like Shaun of the Dead, Harold and Kumar…, Paranormal Activity, or [REC] you owe it to yourself to seek out this brilliant indie film. I really see this one being a silent killer in the cult world so get in on it now!