Scout Taylor-Compton sure does know how to play tortured, ha, holy shit. Anyone who's familiar with her bloody run through the Rob Zombie gauntlets that are the two Halloween remakes, won't be surprised to see her trooper once again, through diabolical trials and tribulations. Only this time its a parasitic ghost, not a ghost-faced killer, that's in pursuit, and Rich Ragsdale - not Rob Zombie - as the horror maestro.
Ghost House is a fairly simple spooky tale, featuring a narrative that isn't necessarily concerned with ambition, but rather, focuses on a smaller - more personal - kind of story, involving a small handful of colorful characters. The film mainly follows lovey-dovey couple Jim and Julie on their vacation visit to Thailand, one which starts off innocently enough, but quickly sees them spiral uncontrollably towards something deeply sinister, deeply malevolent. This descent comes by way of a chance encounter with another couple of tourists, who on the surface, seem to only have the best intentions in mind; the promise of a night they'd never forget. It's not long after the meetup that Jim and Julie find themselves on the wrong side of a ghost house curse (after foolishly disrupting a shrine), and the rest of their vacation becomes a desperate search for reprieve from a violently relentless spirit.
As I mentioned at the start of this review, Scout Taylor-Compton is no stranger to playing characters that are exhaustively put through the wringer. Ghost House is no exception, in fact, this is probably the worst of it by far; and considering her previous outings in the genre, that's no small feat! To wit, her character Julie is not only physically tortured, but mentally and spiritually as well - brought as close to death's door as someone can be, she spends most of her screen time either screaming, crying, contorting, or asking (begging) to be put out of her misery. Needless to say, out of every character in the film, she's definitely having the most fun.
Playing opposite of her, is Jim (James Landry Hébert) and his well-meaning, obnoxious tenacity. I hate to put it this way, but - ugh - I really didn't care for the character, at all. He's soft spoken, yet irritatingly persistent in his off-base assertions regarding his girlfriend's condition. He's too weak a person to try and come off as a tough guy, but it sure doesn't stop him from trying (and mostly failing). One of those attempts at heroism is an unintentionally hilarious confrontation - and "fight" - against one of the two men which set off the chain events leading to the precarious situation he happens to find himself in. I mean, give the guy some credit for having the balls, but he ultimately gets bested and put to sleep via choke hold. You'd almost feel sorry for him if he wasn't so unaware of his lack of humility. Almost.
Anyway, most of those moments in which Jim is driven (literally) to and from, are thanks to the self-appointed tour guide - the aptly named "Gogo" - a local who's not only a fantastically convenient chauffeur, but an expert in the matters of shaman magic. I love him, even if he leans a bit too hard on the side of comic relief, his bombastic bubbly personality reminds me quite a bit of Victor Wong's character "Egg Shen" from John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China - a good thing for sure. There are some other supporting characters (Sons of Anarchy's Mark Boone Jr makes an appearance) which help to flavor the story a bit and keep things moving forward, but the three mentioned above really are the key ones, and it's those respective arcs that really shape the narrative.
So ultimately, where does that leave the film? Well, while Ghost House certainly has its fair share of stumbles, mainly in the way of editing inconsistencies, oddly misplaced musical pieces, and Jim, it still manages to be a highly energetic, gorgeously shot ghost story. The strength of the film, especially in the back half, are it's wildly chilling visuals. This is absolutely crucial in conveying the spiritually crushing power of the curse, and boy does it deliver in that regard; the ghost in Ghost House had me jumping pretty damn good. Nowadays, with most horror ideas tapped out, with people getting harder and harder to scare, that's about as good a compliment as I can pay a film like this. If you're in the mood for something loud and spooky, and willing to get through a mostly safe playing first two acts, you'll find your patience rewarded with an emphatic, intense finale.