'We Have a Ghost' review: Ghoulish comedy in need of some spirit
Courtesy of Netflix
Writer/director Christopher Landon’s latest horror comedy “We Have a Ghost” brings forward an interesting concept before squandering its potential. It imagines in the current digital landscape and social media age, how the word might react if someone caught actual, verifiable footage of a ghost and posted it online. In “We Have a Ghost,” those scenarios are played out via Tik-Tok challenges, national television spots, and cheap local mediums played by the irreplaceable Jennifer Coolidge. From “Freaky,” “Happy Death Day,” to the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, Landon is no stranger to the occult or supernatural oddities, but at over two hours and change, there’s simply too much material in “We Have a Ghost.” It’s actually an overkill.
The movie follows the Presley family who, for reasons we don’t know, though it’s hinted they were defrauded in a pyramid scheme, have relocated to the Chicago suburbs. Frank (Anthony Mackie) and Melanie (Erica Ash) alongside their two children, Fulton (Niles Finch) and Kevin (Jahi Di’ Allo Winston - “Charm City Kings”) have found an older mansion that could use some TLC and, as is always the case in these movies, the move has caused some friction. Especially for Kevin, an aspiring musician, who can never make his father happy (he also prefers Terry Kath over Jimmy Hendrix).
It’s supposed to mark a new start for the clan until Kevin discovers a ghost named Ernest (David Harbour) dwelling in the attic. Dressed in a 1950s bowling shirt, Ernest’s attempts at scaring off the Presley’s are futile and instead of running for the hills (as the previous family does in the opening sequence), they exploit him. Soon, thanks to his viral video, everyone is doing the “Ernest” challenge on various platforms and championing their new favorite Casper.
Meanwhile, Ernest doesn’t know how or why he exists, leaving Kevin to dig up information and understand the logistics that led to his entrapment. It leads towards some unexpected (and silly) detours, including a run-in with a secondary paranormal government agency lead by Tig Notaro who obviously need Ernest for shady government things.
In a tighter movie with more focus, the Notaro character might’ve been a welcome inclusion, but in “We Have a Ghost,” which is based on Geoff Manaugh’s “Ernest,” there’s too many subplots and deviations happening. Whether it’s Frank shamelessly monetizing Ernest, reconnecting with his distant son or tracking down the culprit responsible for our ghoul’s demise, “We Have a Ghost” overextends its hand. By the time we reach the third act, and Landon tries cranking up the movie’s haunted house factor with stylized camera angles, loud booms, and a sadistic reveal, it’s past the point of no return. Not to mention, Harbour, one of the finest comedic performers in the business, doesn’t utter a single word for the film’s entire duration. Forcing the “Stranger Things” star’s physicality and facial expressions to carry a heavy load. He’s fine, but the herculean efforts can’t repair this limp, Netflix non-starter.
WE HAVE A GHOST debuts on Netflix Friday, February 24th.