Okay, I know I have unpredictable minority opinions quite often, but after looking around I think I may literally
be the only person who likes this intriguing teen twist on the conventional ghost story. I admittedly prob give it more credit than it merits as a film because I think its premise is fascinating: a traumatic event wipes out a large portion of Chicago and the outlying suburbs, but the ghosts of those who were killed remain in everyday life, going through looped scenarios like holograms on repeat. Ten years later, society has gotten so used to these ghosts that high school students take an entire class devoted to learning about them, as a kind of current events/(after)life skills course. The metaphor is obvious, sure— just like the victims of 9/11 or other mass-scale tragedies, the victims must live with the memory of their loved ones, here literally— but I legit think this is a brilliant reversal of the usual ghost story logic: instead of no one believing such things exist, everyone has to just learn to adapt to a world where they certainly do, and they become a rote part of everyday life. I also very much enjoyed how the film plays with one of my least-favorite horror movie tropes, the “rules” that characters somehow assert as true to explain illogical events logically. Here the “rules” are learned and quickly broken first-hand, with characters protesting with “Buuuut the rules
!” So much for all those hours of notes in Ghost Class!
Bella Thorne’s angsty emo sexpot thing as the protagonist is weirdly appealing (My absolute favorite Letterboxd review for this film: “Shirts don’t fit like that in real life”), and the film gets the most out of the cost of casting Dermot Mulroney as the smart-ass but caring Ghost Class teacher. The rest of the cast was present for filming.
Unfortunately for all the high ideas of the premise, the film settles into a rote serial killer drama with specific ghosts sending warnings (“But the rules say they can’t do that!”) to Thorne, who wouldn’t you know it happens to share the same birthday and profile as a lot of previous victims. It is, like, immediately obvious who the killer is even without watching a second of this film, because
you don’t spend what little money you have to cast one recognizable name in addition to your protagonist and just make him a friendly dude
but as I argued in the horror thread recently, it’s important to differentiate between inevitable and predictable twists. Predictable twists are dumb because they insult us while flattering us (“We’re smarter than the movie!”). Inevitable twists work because the film played it fair throughout and led to a conclusion that was well-mapped and justified by what came before. Just because you’ve seen a movie before and can see it coming a mile away doesn’t mean it necessarily sucks.
Regardless of the distraction of the actual plot, it's the small touches throughout that make it work so well. For instance, I loved the unsettling scene wherein a group of perverts gather in an abandoned building to get off to watching a ghost loop of a young woman’s murder— a kind of the next level entertainment option for those who find slasher movies passé. Or how the film brashly co-opts 9/11 imagery with such brazen disregard to taste that you kind of have to admire its gall. And how at some point characters have to make an educated guess about whether that old lady crossing the street in the crosswalk is real or a ghost and either slow down or plow through her! I never got around to seeing the Goosebumps
sequel, but there’s no way it was a better Goosebumps
movie than this.
Colin, is this on your radar? I think you’d love it, and then its fanbase could double! I think the rest of you would hate this movie. Watch it anyways to at the worst come up with decent zingers for an eventual threadsplit. One of the best films of the year (!)