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Ghost Machine (2009)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
DVD Released: 12/22/2009
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/5/2010
Let's get something straight right off the bat -- I have the utmost admiration for low-budget filmmakers. It takes a lot of guts to scrape together whatever resources are available and make a movie. This sort of "Do whatever you can with whatever you have" mentality has yielded some classics, especially in the horror genre, and even if the movie is a stinker, God bless you for trying. However, the fact that I admire your movie doesn't mean that I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt -- if your movie stinks, then your movie stinks, no matter what kind of circumstances surrounded the production. Let's look at Ghost Machine for an example of this.
As Ghost Machine opens, we see a hooded figure being transported into a prison. The story then jumps ahead several years, where we join a group of soldiers in a combat situation. We soon learn that the firefight is merely a virtual reality simulation, and the Jess (Rachael Taylor) and her fellow soldiers weren't really there. The whole thing was a computer generated world created by Tom (Sean Faris) and his assistant, Vic (Luke Ford). While Jess runs laps for doing poorly in the simulation (?!), Tom and Vic meet up with Benny (Jonathan Harden) and take Tom's equipment to the prison, now abandoned, seen in the film's opening. There, they meet Iain (Sam Corry), who works as a security guard at the prison. Tom has created the ultimate simulation and wants to test it in the prison. Vic places sensors throughout the building, even the corridor which Iain claims is creepy, while Tom begins the program. Soon, Iain and Benny find themselves moving through an incredibly realistic recreation of the prison, where they are running from and shooting a squad of computer generated enemy combatants. However, their presence has awakened an evil force in the building which soon infiltrates the computer and the game, placing everyone at risk.
Somewhere within Ghost Machine is a good movie. The last 15 minutes of the movie reveal a plot point which is fairly interesting and could have made for an intriguing film. If only the filmmakers could have had more money and another script polish, they could have turned Ghost Machine into something memorable. But, since they clearly didn't have those things, we are stuck with this confusing low-budget movie.
Again, I admire low-budget filmmakers and I hate to jump on them, but Ghost Machine contains one of my pet-peeves. I'm sick and tired of the "Hey, we've got the run of an abandoned building, let's make a movie!" While I'm especially tired of abandoned hospitals, the empty prison thing isn't much better. Now, if used correctly, an old building can lend an air of creepiness to a movie. But, in most instances, it simply feels like someone found a cheap and easy place to set a movie. That's the impression left by Ghost Machine. You know what also feels cheap? The ghost. I don't want to give anything away, but the ghost is simply a woman who carries a chain and wanders the prison with a cloth over her head. That the lamest ghost costume since the second person put a sheet over their head and claimed to be a ghost.
While these problem do nothing to improve Ghost Machine's appeal, it's the script which could really use work. This is one of those movies where I knew what was happening, I was never really sure why it was happening. If the game is a simulation and the players sit still in chairs, why did they need to physically go to the prison? Why couldn't Tom have gone to the prison, used his sensors to make a map of the place, and then played the game at the base? Why is Jess' commander, Sergeant Taggert (Richard Dormer) so hateful? And how does he end up in the game? How does a ghost get into a computer? Why are they playing a military simulation in a prison? Shouldn't it be a prison riot simulation? Very little of the film makes any narrative sense. But, the biggest question of them all -- Why are Rachael Taylor's eye-brows so black? I couldn't concentrate on the movie because of this.
As noted above, the last act of Ghost Machine reveals an idea which could have made for a good movie. However, it comes too late to save this film, which flounders around looking for a purpose. The movie isn't scary or exciting, but it is confusing. There aren't many good prison/ghost movies, and this is one is at the bottom of the barrel.
Ghost Machine has frustratingly dark eye-brows on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a small amount of grain at times and no defects from the source material. The image gets a tad dark at times, but not so much that it's distracting. The colors look good and natural. The picture didn't show any signs of artifacting or pixellation. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The mix here is pretty good as the stereo effects are nicely used to illustrate off-screen action. The battle scenes provide good surround sound effects which impressively match the on-screen events. These same scenes deliver some well-placed subwoofer effects.
The Ghost Machine DVD contains three extras. "The Making of Ghost Machine" (30 minutes) is a bit too long given the material, but it's nice to see a featurette which isn't overrun with film clips. We get a nice amount of on-set footage and interviews with the cast and filmmakers. Some of this is simply "fly on the wall" video, but we do get a look at the setting. We learn more about the screenwriter's motivations in "Interview with Writer Sven Hughes" (10 minutes). The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the movie.
Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long