2015 / Director. Joel Souza.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
GHOST SQUAD is a family-friendly horror movie that pays homage to the type of childhood adventure movies that populated the 1970's and 80s. Cinema of this nature is rarely explored any more and titles like this are few and far between. The poster art immediately caught my attention and I ventured in to the movie blindly. It kicks off with a fantastic animated credit sequence that really sets the mood and then it was off and racing... and what fun it was!
Three friends accept a dare from local bullies and spend Halloween night inside a local haunted house. They quickly realise that the place is riddled with hidden cameras and booby traps, however, unbeknownst to them the house is also haunted by an actual ghost. Their night consists of eating candy, tip-toeing with torches and having the wits scared out of them.
The movie was directed Joel Souza who previously cut his teeth on the kids treasure hunt flick, HANNA'S GOLD. As the writer and director on these movies he has a clear adoration for kid friendly adventure and this, of course, speaks to my heart. I am easily influenced when it comes to this brand of film and GHOST SQUAD definitely hit the spot.
Of course to be objective for a moment I have no problem conceding that the script is loose and could be reigned in significantly. The premise is great and with a few extra re-writes the script could have been fantastic. With that said, the movie works on a technical level. The production design is wonderful and on a modest budget they've created a dark and eerie atmosphere that is far more effective than it ought to be. Digital effects are decent when relied on but kept to a minimum. The rest of it is practical and Souza has fallen back on good old-fashioned suspense to tell his tale.
Younger viewers who haven't grown up with these sort of movies as the norm should get a real kick out of it. A similar title released recently was VICTOR AND THE SECRET OF CROCODILE MANSION. It was an exceptional film but it was also German. Few English-speaking kids would have seen it and so GHOST SQUAD is a worthy movie to take its place, stirring up their imaginations and spooking the heck out of them. Adult audiences need to keep the target demographic in mind. They would be advised to watch it as though they were kids. Think back to the FAMOUS FIVE or perhaps even THE GOONIES and remember how you responded to those. This one has nice subtle (and not so subtle) references to movies like GHOSTBUSTERS and MONSTER SQUAD and the high school is even called Joe Dante Elementary. Oh and then there's Kevin Nealon as the father. This might just be another pay day for him but he's actually quite good.
If you've got kids then watch GHOST SQUAD with them. With any luck the timing of it may be very fortunate. The big budget GOOSEBUMPS movie is right around the corner and here's hoping that an old trend is rekindled. I sure as hell would love to see more kid-friendly monster movies being made.