Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ghost From The Machine -- aka Phasma Ex Machina (2011)

Fear 4/5
Gore 0/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 5/5

Ghost From the Machine is an original and ultimately heartbreaking ghost story. Subtle and nuanced, the film tells the story of an afflicted young man who's bound and determined to reach and bring back his parents from 'the other side' at the expense of maintaining personal relationships. You hope he achieves his singular purpose because if not, he stands to lose a lot. After many trials and some success, he learns a difficult lesson in that no one is meant to ever come back.

Our story begins with a funeral, our main character, a young twenty-something named Cody, is mourning the loss of his mother and father. Later on in our story, we come to find that they died in an accident that could have been avoidable. We flash forward in time to his home, his younger middle school aged brother asking him about a device that he's spent a considerable amount of time developing. It seems that Cody has been studying what defines supernatural occurrences and has narrowed down the void that prevents spirits from crossing over: the joining of negative ions and electromagnetic activity. This marriage, he believes, will serve as a bridge and bring back dear ol' mom and dad.

After multiple failed attempts, Cody presses on as he visits a local thrift store to fish for parts. He figures that something has to give and that all of his careful planning, mapping, fizzed out and short circuited attempts and re-attempts will finally work out. It must. It has to. His grief has cost him friends including a girlfriend and if he doesn't start being more responsible, protective services is not too far away from removing his younger brother from the childhood home that they share.

A tip from the thrift store clerk finds Cody visiting an old tech nerd, a man who's asked to catalog and maintain outdated military equipment just in case it's ever needed again. In his possession, the man has a solar panel which will provide a better energy source for Cody's machine. The old tech nerd sells him the part and Cody returns to his garage to continue work on his machine.

It seems that his latest addition is the magic trick. Strange noises and voices are now heard regularly in the house. Radios turned off come back on. Our old tech nerd back at home, finds his dead wife's framed picture inexplicably re-positioned in the living room. One particular morning, his breakfast bowl takes a trip across the kitchen table as he's reading the paper. Cody takes note of things happening in his own home but they don't compare to the more violent instances of paranormal activity (sorry, I couldn't resist) that he and his brother are about to face.

Our widowed tech nerd awakens one night to find his dead wife washing dishes in the kitchen. At first, he can't believe what he's seeing. After a couple of days and some initial hesitation, he begins to settle in to his old life. After all, he had plans and his wife was unfairly taken from him. Although his curiosity gets the best of him one day and he ventures out in search of how this all happened. Being the science man that he is, he takes an EMF reader and scours the neighborhood. Who do you think he bumps in to, working in his garage? Initially, Cody shoos him off but eventually and after another visit, he tells him how it all works.

While our tech guy carries on with his now returned wife, Cody and his brother encounter some spirits that have less than favorable intentions. Instead of welcoming back mom and dad, they come face to face with the previous occupants of their home, an old couple who ran a day care. It seems that some wrongdoings were carried out there and the husband turned to violent action to resolve their problems. Cody realizes there is only one way to get rid of their unwanted guests and that is to destroy the machine. But as he struggles with if he should really destroy it and keeping it going for the tech guy now turned friend, he takes his attention off the one thing he should have taken care of all along: his brother. Our film ends in heartbreaking fashion as Cody loses out entirely. But it seems like someone might be willing to pick up the reins on his obsessive project.

At it's heart, Ghost From The Machine is a more character based film than pure horror. Sure, it has its scares and genuinely creepy moments, but it's the focus on the characters which really drives the film. When I stated that it's subtle and nuanced, I meant it is in such away that it never really force feeds you the 'why' of Cody being so single minded. You just know that he is extremely grief stricken and in some way, feels responsible for what happened. The same with our widowed tech geek. You never really know the ins and outs of his relationship with his wife. You just know that she was the love of his life. The horror elements are balanced carefully with our character driven moments and the filmmaker pulled off this balancing act exceptionally well. Had he not done so, the ending would not have packed as much of an emotional of a punch as needed. Truly not a made for Hollywood ending.

Ironically, it's getting the remake treatment through Universal Pictures. It will be interesting to see what comes of the ending. Regardless, I can't wait to see what else is in store first time feature length filmmaker Matt Osterman.

More info about the film including release info can be found via its website: http://www.ghostfromthemachine.com/

Cortez the Killer


Erin said...

You are the best at finding these weird newer indie films! Can't wait to see this one.

Planet of Terror said...

Thanks Erin! But I can't quite take credit for this one. A filmmaker friend recommended it to me :)

Check out the link in the review to the film's website. Release details including Netflix availability is on the site.