Ghosts in the Machine (aka House of VHS) review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
Ghosts in the Machine is one of those cheap shlock fests that pretends to know what it’s doing, where in fact it’s doing everything but; in which case, we (and by we, I mean I) can safely assume that Ghosts in the Machine is neither a parody, nor a satire, and not even – god forbid – a pastiche of “found tape” horror flicks that reached their zenith somewhere in the mid-1990s. So, what is this film anyways? Well, for one, Ghosts in the Machine tags itself by several popular genres, including horror, fantasy, mystery, thriller, and more. All of this would’ve been good, if not for the fact that Gautier Cazenave’s passion project is not scary, neither fantastical, neither mysterious, nor thrilling. Ghosts in the Machine is just bleh.
First off, terribly bad films are supposed to be fun. Ghosts in the Machine builds its world around a VHS tape that isn’t supposed to be found, touched, or played with in any way, shape, or form. And while not quite The Ring-level scary, this VHS tape also has some sorts of unexplained magical properties that push our heroes to the brink of madness. Or not, it’s either or really.
And this is basically the foundation upon which Ghosts in the Machine builds its narrative – if there was ever one to begin with. In fact, the film needs neither a narrative, nor a plot, because VHS was (and according to the flick, it still is) the answer to everything. If your final act starts with a seven-minute-long montage of an old found-footage, well, footage, then it’s a safe bet to assume your audience isn’t really interested in seeing your film in the first place. It’s either that, or editing has escaped your to-do list and now you’re filling up the gaps with whichever methods you can muster.
And so, our six movie stars arrive at an abandoned, seemingly-idyllic (but nonetheless nefarious) French county house. Little do they know English and I’m not joking; it’s clear that these actors come from non-English speaking countries, and so they stumble and mumble their lines in a semi-professional way, desperately trying to earn their paychecks by method of pretending. But I digress.
Ghosts in the Machine features several unexplained plot-points that converge, diverge, come in and out of existence and blur the vision between reality and narrative consistency all at once. To this extent, Ghosts in the Machine is a stereotypical nightmare that doesn’t feel as if it needs to hide that fact. It’s a Frankenstein monster, but without the monster, or Frankenstein. It’s everything but.
Finally, if you’re into boring, stereotypical characters, confusing plot-lines, aching and painful acting, and meandering stories, then Ghosts in the Machine would be right up your alley. At least you’ll get some enjoyment out of it, and that’s more power to you.