I think I can safely say that nobody wants their loved ones to die. I mean, even if there’s an insurance policy coming your way, you probably still don’t want that person to die just so you can make money. Death is the most tragic part of life.
Only slightly less tragic is the writing, editing, and acting involved in Matt Osterman’s 2010 directorial debut, Ghost From the Machine, which is my latest endeavor for this weekly column, and which also happens to be written and edited by Osterman. Rarely has the sum of a movie been merely bad while each of its individual parts was so overwhelmingly terrible. I was lucky enough to watch this movie with a wife and a friend, and nary a minute of screentime passed without one of us questioning some aspect of the production.
Let’s lay out this uncommplicated and fairly interesting plotline. Cody (Sasha Andreev) and James (Max Hauser) are two brothers whose parents died a year earlier. Cody is doing a shitty job of being an older brother and James isn’t making it to school on time, which draws attention from social services. Cody is too busy building the titular machine, one that he hopes will bring his parents back from the dead in some form or another. His point of view is that ghosts are formed from extremely high levels of electrical energy. As such, about five minutes of this 90-minute feature are spent knee-deep in jargon and electronic equipment.
Cody gets some equipment he needs from Tom (Matthew Feeney), a guy who is finally coming out of his widower’s shell to go on dates. But once their paths cross, both of their lives are affected by mysterious events. Since Ghost From the Machine isn’t bogged down by multiple storylines, a lot can be spoiled by giving away too much, although knowing all of the events that occur in the movie doesn’t exactly feel like a victory either. Are ghosts real? Are the ghosts of our loved ones something that we really want to experience? Of course not, but movie characters aren’t critical thinkers most of the time.
Strange noises and occurrences plague Cody and James at home, which just makes Cody work even harder to get his machine fully functional. And then they find out their home’s history is far darker than they’d imagined.
I still want to like this movie, even though the editing works completely against it, smashing some scenes together for no reason while splitting others apart. And the scenes that are being edited aren’t exactly award-worthy. No one speaks as if they’ve ever had a real-life conversation. Tom walks into an electronics store to buy an EMF meter, and the clerk is astonished that he would be asked for a product that he just ordered, to which Tom replies, “You’re a story, aren’t you?” or something like that. I cannot imagine the purpose for this clerk’s words, and it’s a film full of odd non sequiturs like that.
Truth be told, the last half hour of this flick is far more interesting than the first hour, and manages to craft a few genuinely creepy moments in between the rough dialogue. When Tom and Cody’s lives are connected again outside of purchasing machine parts, it’s because Tom just walks right into Cody’s garage and starts poking around. And Cody doesn’t end up beating the shit out of him, which is ridiculous.
There’s no surprise Ghost From the Machine hasn’t made anyone’s “Best Films of the Century So Far…” lists, which is an assumption I’ll stake my life on. But there’s something still quite worth watching about this movie, and I’ll probably spend another minute or so mulling on it before moving on with my night.
See Ghost From the Machine if you like: films with less than five establishing shots; a ghost story that doesn’t feel the need to be weighed down by either real or formulated logic; CGI smoke; films where no one gets a happy ending.
Thanks for reading, guys! Check back next weekend for another new look at another non-new movie, and remember to tell your family you love them while they’re still here.