Written by: Colin Smith
When I first heard the title of this film, I was immediately weary of its content. What can I say? I’m shallow when it comes to titles of movies. And let’s face it, a good title can make or break a movie in terms of drawing in an audience by hinting at the storyline through a string of carefully placed adjectives, verbs and nouns. I mean, honestly, who read the title of White House Down and thought that it was going to be a good movie? Well, this is one instance where my overly judgmental attitude would’ve deprived my existence of watching a film that has something that very few movies, regardless of budget, have these days; heart.
Like John Hughes films of yesteryear, this film rekindles the coming-of-age tales that were popular in the late 80s and 90s. However, for the past few decades, these kind of films have all but gone extinct, leaving other kindred spirits from my generation longing for something more than just a fart or dick joke layered heavily to compensate for lackluster acting and an underdeveloped storyline. I understand that the target audience for films of this genre has changed, but do we constantly need to use potty humor as a conduit for selling a story that has at a least a shred of substance? Enter, Son of Ghostman. Like the elusive Coelacanth caught swimming off the coast of Madagascar in the late 1930’s, this film is a hidden gem that hints at a lost, but not forgotten generation.
In the beginning, we find Denny McNamara (Devin Ordoyne) unemployed, recently dumped and on the verge of being evicted by his own brother. This series of unfortunate events leads Denny into an existential crisis of sorts. He seeks solace through a character that represents a period in his life when things weren’t so complicated and there was still a sense of purity in this tainted world; a dubious horror host known as Ghostman. Like many actual horror hosts, Ghostman used dry wit laced with tongue-in-cheek humor to point out the absurdities in films that were intended to be taken seriously. Denny’s affinity for this character stems from Ghostman’s light-hearted ability to see the light in even the darkest of situations. As a means of coping with the darkness in his own life, Denny smears on some face paint and spews a drunken rant to a camcorder while channeling the character of his idol. Thus, Son of Ghostman is born.
The main antagonist is played by the film’s writer and director, Kurt Larson. Larson’s character, Rick Heenan, moonlights as a local horror host known as Count Dracool. Heenan has dominated the local horror scene like a plague, garnering the attention of TV network scouts who want to take his Dracool character to the masses. Heenan is a horror hipster, standing on the shoulders of the giants who came before him and using their formula to turn the horror host into a marketable franchise. Clever ads for Dracool’s line of sun block are memorable and quote worthy. Believe me, you’ll find yourself saying “coastal Count…” for real reason after you watch this film. It’s subtle moments like this in SOG that really show off Larson’s wit and his ability to create characters who are three dimensional. Getting the audience to actually have an emotional connection with things that are happening in a film is probably the single hardest thing to accomplish in film writing. Larson does this well, having you hate, yet still enjoy the douchebaggery of his Count Dracool character. He really sucks you in. Pun intended.
What great story would be complete without a love interest? Angela Gulner plays Claire, a divorcee who is the legal guardian of her nephew Zack. The two play onscreen together like siblings John and Joan Cusak in Say Anything, each spitting sass at the other with a tinge of love underneath. After a chance encounter at an event Count Dracool is hosting, Denny and Claire literally bump into each other and the soft hint of sparks fly. The morning after Denny’s drunken rant as the Son of Ghostman, Zack finds Denny passed out in a driveway with his camcorder in tow. Much to Denny’s chagrin, Zack plasters the video online. The video actually gets positive reviews and from there Zack, Denny and the Sancho Panza of the ensemble, Carlo (Marion Correa), set out to create a web series to bring down the horror hipster Count Dracool and breathe some humanity back into the horror host scene. Denny seeks to win the affections of the reluctant Claire, while filming episodes of SOG with her nephew Zack, who has firm reservations about the two of them hooking up. And with all the plot points established, the film plays out in a enjoyable ballet of nostalgia, incorporating elements like the montage, to seamlessly progress the story while still engaging the audience. It all leads up to an enjoyable finale that highlights a deeper meaning than the title or plot points initially reveal. It’s the chemistry of the actors combined with Larson’s lighthearted writing that really make this flick hit a home run.
The film really shines in the character development and witty banter that occurs between the characters throughout the film. Three of the main (Denny, Claire & Zack) characters are caught at a crossroad in their lives; remain stuck in the dreaded, mundane monotony of mediocrity or reach out and take hold of that last fleeting opportunity to do something that actually makes them happy. The film is so relatable because it shines light on the struggle that we all face on a daily basis. Be responsible to meet your obligations and, in turn, forfeit the things that really make you feel alive. Those who actually choose to forgo the more conventional route of working the 9-5 in order to pursue their dreams are labeled, by most of society’s terms, a daydreaming loser. It actually makes you reevaluate that idea by begging you to ask the question, which is worse: spending your life doing something to appease someone else’s interests or appeasing your own interest at the risk of alienating some of the people around you? The fact that this film can a evoke a that kind of response is pretty great achievement, if you ask me.
In a time when Hollywood’s idea of creating a new movie is basically painting over the past with bright, explosive colors that rarely hold their weight in budget dollars, SOG is a film that reminisces of the past with solid acting, good story telling and zero budget. It’s hard to believe considering the quality of the final product. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll know it’s low budget (the soundtrack is pretty telling), but there’s quality where it counts and it far exceeds a large amount of the bullshit that gets spewed out into the mainstream on a monthly basis. Still not convinced? Don’t listen to me, formulate your own opinion and watch the film. Don’t be a jerk like me and judge a book by it’s cover. Who knows? This film could be your Coelacanth.