Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rare Flix: Ghost Chase

G-g-g-g-gosh, this is not that good.  Today's film is Ghost Chase, one of the first (English) films of one Roland Emmerich.  Yes, before he was blowing up the White House (at least twice!) and ending the world as we know it, he was making pseudo-E.T. rip-offs.  Unlike other films like Mac and Me or Nukie, this one is a bit more subtle.  It has a tiny, freaky creature, but it's not an alien.  I'll get into this thing's bizarre origin a bit later.  What you need to know is that this film is very, very '80s.  On one hand, it gives it a kitschy vibe.  On the other hand, it's just plain silly.  The plot, naturally, involves some ghosts, Hollywood and one of the creepiest things designed to appeal to kids.  It's makes this weird movie about the guy in the bear suit look...well, that's still creepy.  Sorry, Gooby.  While Emmerich's film appears to be tanking, see why that probably makes sense...
Our heroes are a pair of amateur filmmakers.  They need to make a hit film in order to pay their comedically-large pile of bills.

However, one of the 'bills' is actually a note telling one of them that their Grandfather died and that they have inherited something.
Instead of money, it turns out to be a box of junk.  Of course, if it is junk, why is someone sending a comedic henchman out to steal it?
 The villain is Paul Gleason, who is far too good for this film.  He plays disdain so well here that you'd almost think that he was Directing it towards the production.  We miss you, Paul.
As it turns out, one of the items in the box is an old clock that summons a spirit at 1 AM.  As luck (and weird writing) would have it, one of our heroes built an animatronic figurine of the Butler (with what money exactly?) and the Ghost of said Butler possesses it.

I don't know- just go with it.
I won't go into detail about the context of this shot, but I just found it funny.
Eventually, they find the Grandfather's body and where he stashed his money.  He didn't want them to have it, so he's a little bit peeved when his Grandson and *sort of* Butler show up.  Send in the Knight!
Our heroes stop the Knight and get the money, but the Ghost Butler/Animatronic Figurine dies...or whatever the closest approximation to that is.  I'm...sad?
In the aftermath, the goofy friend is made the head of the Studio and this film suddenly rushes to the finish by exposition-dumping the key events via newspapers.
They drive off to live their dreams as they drive past the billboard of infamous flop Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold.

Oh and the Ghost Butler/Animatronic Figure is still alive, despite 'getting peace' and his body being blown up in the house.  If I was expecting logic by now...well, I wouldn't be.  The End.
Ghosts are not that funny.  The best word to describe this movie is 'wacky.'  Unfortunately, it's that word and not 'good.'  There's a certain, goofy charm to this whole thing.  As many people online have pointed out though, it's not that well made.  Simple sight gags like our hero crashing his bike into a fence or the girl doing the 'pouring coffee while not looking' bit are just not shot and/or edited well.  There's an art to shooting this stuff and Emmerich doesn't have it (at this time, at least).  They just aren't done well and that's just one of the film's problems.  I don't know why, but the humor is sometimes overly-explained.  When you have to explain a joke, it's not funny- something everyone knows.  For example, our hero grabs some 'paper' to light to see in the Vault, which turns out to be a bank note for $50,000.  When he quickly puts it out, he asks his friend 'Did you see that?'  He replies 'Yes, I just saw you burn $50,000.'  Wow, that's literally what just happened. For those of you just joining the film 78 minutes in and missing the set-up, here you go!  It's still a better joke than 'Well, that's what killed Vaudeville.'  Seriously, I don't get that joke like two years later!  In summary, this is worth checking out for fans of the obscure- like me.  If you aren't, you may not like it.  It's very '80s and I know that it is a selling point to some.  If you qualify, work on your Rubix Cube and enjoy.  As for me, I'll be watching *better* films (that are actually promoted within this one)...
Next up, I begin Project Terrible with a silly slice of the 1980's.  When your show can't be sold, make it a cheesy TV Movie instead!  Stay tuned...

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