Back in 1996, Peter Jackson made his Hollywood debut with The Frighteners. Despite its lack of box office success, it may well be the high water mark for comedies about fake ghost hunters meeting real ghosts. Since then the genre has been mostly treading water. Ghost Killers vs Bloody Mary being a recent example. Now Tony West makes his debut with Deadtectives. While it might not be a new classic, it does manage to rise above the crowd.
Sam (Chris Geere, The Last Showing, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu), is the host of a bottom of the barrel ghost hunting show. It’s about to get canceled because it’s also bottom of the ratings. His wife and producer Kate (Tina Ivlev) is getting sick of faking hauntings and conning people. So, the network gives them one last chance. They, along with co-host Javier (José María de Tavira) and Sam’s brother Lloyd (David Newman) who actually believes in ghosts are sent to the most haunted house in Mexico. Accompanying them are new producer Abril (Martha Higareda, Altered Carbon) and effects guy Bob (Mark Riley).
However, it doesn’t take them long to find out that the house really is haunted by a homicidal spirit. The team is going to have to learn how to deal with spirits fast. Or they’ll be the dead in Deadtectives.
Deadtectives manages to come up with a few new twists on hauntings that keep it from feeling stale. My favorite is the portals in some of the doorways that transport you to the other ends of the house. It’s a fun gimmick and thankfully not overused. Unfortunately the same can’t be said Lloyd and his tweaking of their gear. It seems every time they could use their prop gear to actually work it does because “I modified it”. It’s funny the first couple of times but starts to wear thin after that.
The other trick Deadtectives has up its sleeve is some genuine character development. Javier, in particular, has a great character arc, which ties in nicely with the film’s Mexican setting. He’s supposed to be the sidekick but frequently steals the show in the film’s second half.
Of course, a film like Deadtectives needs to deliver the ghosts to be successful. And it does with what seems to be mostly practical effects backed up with some good CGI in places, There’s just enough gore to make the threat the evil spirits pose feel real. And the benevolent spirits look real enough to engage our sympathies. It’s a good combination.
Deadtectives is currently available on Shudder.