TEENAGE GHOST PUNK (2014)

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Directed by:
Written by:
Starring: , , ,
★☆☆☆☆

Available Now on Amazon Video

Structure isn’t generally something I have to raise an eyebrow at, but that’s generally because stories tend to follow the same standard when the running time is a brisk ninety minutes. But they sometimes throw a curve ball, and in this case there’s an odd flash forward style prologue before the credits that doesn’t quite seem to fit. It’s reminiscent of a TV show, and the feeling that this is more similar to a sitcom than an actual feature length release keeps coming back throughout the story. It’s not just because this is supposed to be funny, there are all kinds of little things that make it feel episodic within its own storyline. Unfortunately there’s about as many laughs as there are effective haunting scenes, which is to say none at all.

After being bombarded with a brief glimpse and what looks like a seance and a ghost hunt in the first few minutes without any context or setup, we suddenly meet Amanda (Grace Madigan) and her family who have been forced to move to a new town after her mother Carol (Adria Dawn) needed to find work. Here we’re also introduced to a number of elements that recur throughout the story whether they work or not. They both have different music tastes, her brother speaks in a weird faux intellectual cadence for some reason, and she’s pining for her boyfriend back home. The music thing comes up later when they find the house is inhabited by a ghost, but the little brother and his wisdom beyond his years schtick is never funny and wears out fast.

A lot of the other characters fit that bill unfortunately, and while none of the cast are particularly bad the script they have to deal with makes them all pretty irritating. There’s an eccentric gay couple next door who are into ‘poetry and limerick nights’ and there are a pair of less than helpful cops who look into the disturbances in the house. Later we meet the worst offender, Carol’s creepy co-worker who pesters every woman in the department with bad pick up lines in every scene. If there was a better sense of pacing maybe this stuff wouldn’t feel so jarring, but it jumps from one scene to the next like a bad kids show at times, often with weird musical motifs at the end of each one to really sell that feeling.

Maybe this was their attempt to make this quirky? But when you see that a film is a comedy with a ghost, you kind of expect some of the humour to be mined from that premise, rather than all this bad melodrama. Something like Clinger did this much better. Annoying scam artists posing as ghost hunters or mediums doesn’t count. Meanwhile there are lengthy scenes of Amanda trying to fit in at school, although everyone is just nice immediately so there’s no real sense of progression. Even the kids that hear about the haunted house problem don’t seem sceptical. There are few brief moments of teen angst and sibling rivalry but nothing that really constitutes actual drama. It doesn’t get much better when the ghost plot eventually gets moving.

Brian (Jack Cramer) is the titular ghost punk, who got himself killed back in the ’80s playing an electric guitar in the rain. There’s no real introduction to the place being inhabited by spectral beings, he just kind of appears standing there in camera. I know they were playing this all for laughs, but even some basic mystery and even the cheapest visual effects might have lent it some kind of spooky atmosphere. Most people can’t see him, and when they do they’re not even that surprised. Carol thinks the kids are inviting people into the house, but it was a ghost! No big deal, he just hangs out to chat. He doesn’t do anything like helpful like get revenge on Carol’s annoying colleague, or expose the local medium as a fraud, so why these extraneous subplots are included is the only puzzle here.

Eventually the storyline gets moving but we still have to keep revisiting mom and her exiting marketing job for some reason. At home Amanda and Brian get into a bland romance montage and they have some basic fish out of water style dialogue about how listening to music on a phone is really weird, or how single digital music tracks aren’t the same as buying a real album. It’s pretty simplistic and some often feels like dialogue for teenagers was written by a middle aged film maker, which I guess is true. She soon meets his ghostly friends who all come from different time periods just so they can all be caricatures. There’s a ’50s greaser and a ’60s flower child amongst others, you get the idea.

They aren’t all so friendly, and of the other local spooks is rumoured to be evil. You’d expect some kind of finale with the ghost hunters just to give them something to do, but nothing really happens. They all have a Halloween party on the night people can see their non-corporeal forms, and it looks like things could begin to get interesting. But instead it just leads to some domestic drama with Carol getting angry about the mess in the house and threatening to send Amanda to a therapist. Some reveals come along when Brian’s past is explored but it’s all just so stilted and uneventful. They could have turned this into an interesting drama about lost childhoods and divorced parents, but this isn’t written for emotional impact. For a movie with a title like this it’s surprisingly lacking in punk spirit or teen attitudes, and it never really uses the supernatural elements in a creative way either. As a horror comedy I’ve seen scarier episodes of Round the Twist. You’re better off saving your time.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆



Mocata
About Mocata 57 Articles
A sucker for classic epics, 80s science fiction and fantasy kitsch, horror, action, animation, stop motion, foreign cinema, martial arts and all kinds of assorted stuff and nonsense. If you enjoy a bullet ballet, a good eye ball gag or a story about time travelling robots maybe we can be friends after all.

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