URBAN GHOST STORY - DVD review

Don't waste your time.....

hogster17

Let me just come right out and say it. Don't waste your time with "Urban Ghost Story". Produced by a U.K. independent film company, Living Spirit Pictures, "Urban Ghost Story" is a low budget horror flick that relies on cheap scares and does not have a sustainable story to offer. Based on research gathered from paranormal happenings around the British Isles, co-writers Chris Jones and Geneviève Jolliffe--they are both also the co-founders of Living Spirit Pictures--have cobbled together a mish-mash of horror influences, from "Poltergeist" to "Carrie" without much success. In fact, the real terror of this movie actually comes from the family's living space, a rundown tower of flats with sewer pipes that moan and creak every time you flush the toilet. The thought of crap spewing all over, now that is scary.

Lizzie Fisher (Heather Ann Foster) is recovering from a horrific car accident that killed her best friend and neighbor. At the scene of the accident, Lizzie flatlines for a few minutes before she is revived by paramedics. After the accident, things are never the same again for Lizzie and her family--mom Kate (Stephanie Buttle) and brother Alex (Alan Owen). Lizzie begins to hear mysterious scratching sounds on the walls, see shadows lurking around corners and get spooked by seeing furniture move by themselves. On top of all these paranormal happenings, Kate has to deal with both a loan shark (played by Billy Boyd), who gives her an ultimatum to pay up her absent husband's debt and also nosy officers from child services who are threatening to take Lizzie and Alex away. After getting no help from the police or housing services to relocate, Kate goes to a tabloid reporter, John Fox (Jason Connery) in the hopes of getting to the root of their poltergeist problem. Fox is, however, not the nice fellow who will willingly help a damsel in distress for nothing. Always after a sensational story, he takes up Kate's offer for him to investigate, as a way of exposing what he thinks is a case of fraudulent claims.

So, Fox calls in paranormal investigators and even mediums to see if Lizzie is making up all these disturbances. What they find is something else that is unexplainable. And here is where the problem lies. Apparently, the entire paranormal episode afflicting Lizzie is so hard to explain that the writers themselves have a hard time coming up with their own satisfactory answer. By intentionally being vague about the source of the haunting, the already-shaky story falls apart completely, leaving the audience bewildered and wondering what the entire point of the movie was.

"Urban Ghost Story" actually starts off with a great premise where Lizzie's near-death experience might have opened the door to the "other" world. Unfortunately, the writers choose to steal bits and pieces of other horror films to fill in the blanks in their story. Borrowing heavily from "Poltergeist", we get scenes with self-propelling furniture (but no floating chairs; remember that this is a low budget movie), just that this time, the element of surprise is nowhere to be found. Picking up tips from Stephen King's "Carrie", the writers try to add a new angle to the tired story by suggesting that Lizzie might be telekinetic but without much effect. Horror movies are mostly formulaic and to get ahead of the pack, one needs to come up with something new. Sadly, "Urban Ghost Story" lacks even a single ounce of originality. Everything you see here has been done to death and with better execution elsewhere.

This weak movie is made more horrible by the atrocious acting of its cast. Jason Connery (son of screen legend Sean) may have inherited his father's good looks but unluckily for him, the acting gene did not get passed on. As DVDTown's resident Sean Connery impersonator, Tim Raynor, would say, "It eesh not only the looksh that countsh, it eesh alsho talent, my boy!" Even Billy "Pippin Peregrin" Boyd delivers an alarmingly amateurish performance. Heather Ann Foster's unconvincing depiction of the brooding and expressionless Lizzie will make you wish her character had died in the car crash at the start of the movie.

Video:
Shown in an anamorphic widescreen presentation measuring 1.66:1, the video images are grainy and dark, lacking any visual definition. Produced as recently as 1998, "Urban Ghost Story" looks so much worse than some of the pre-1990 releases I have seen to date. The colors are horribly reproduced and they look washed-out and muted. Just terrible. Spanish subtitles are included.

Audio:
Much better than the video, the English language audio track is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1. Surrounds are quite active and they provide an eerie atmosphere together with the occasional spike in the volume to simulate a scare. Dialogue is clear but the thick Scottish accent of the actors may be hard to understand.

Extras:
For a bad B-movie, this "Urban Ghost Story" DVD release contains a surprisingly large number of extra features and they are all in anamorphic widescreen. Imagine that!

First are two audio commentaries by the director, writers, editor and director of photography. Nothing interesting here as no one in their right mind would want to sit through more than one viewing of this movie. Next is a 25-minute behind-the-scenes documentary with plenty of crew interviews. Also included is a feature about the stunt work done for the movie, a deleted scenes section with commentary by Chris Jones, another documentary about real-life poltergeist events and an option to play the musical score from the movie accompanied by stills.

Film Value:
Blame the low budget, the wooden acting or even the directionless story. Bottom line is, "Urban Ghost Story" is such an awful mess that it is just not worth sitting through even half of it. I was ecstatic that it ended at 80+ minutes, ending my misery a little earlier than I had expected. Denigrating this film has been so much fun that I think I should stop now before I get too carried away. Just do yourself a favor and stay away from this movie. I mean it.

Ratings

Video
3
Audio
6
Extras
6
Film Value
3