I thought I'd never be writing this one.
It comes with a dark, and frequently disgusting,
story of an ambitious production studio, dedicated
seemingly to churning out as many horrible,
disgusting movies as the video store shelves could
handle. Brain Damage studios, operating out of
Tempe, Arizona, poured tens of sad and sorrowful
projects designed to churn the stomach and insult the
intelligence, with cheaply produced efforts such as "The Zombie Chronicles," "Terror Toons," "Hell's
Highway," and other such similar fare.
The last movie I saw come out under the Brain Damage
aegis was almost two years ago, and it was a
contemptible piece of fake-blood-drenched slime. It
was vile beyond any practical definition of vile. In
fact, the bulk of Brain Damage's work has been
low-budget slop at its worst for years now.
Eventually, Brain Damage will start filling their
video boxes with fake blood, so you too can join in
the experience of being covered in the same glop as
And now, Brain Damage has resurfaced with "Invitation," coincidentally the title of a fairly
solid film featuring Lance Henriksen. And it's a bad
sign when the DVD starts off with information on how
to join the "Brain Damage Fan Club." Nothing like
hawking cheesy crap wares before even starting in
with the cheesy crap movie.
So what we have here is the story of a group of
friends indulging in some fairly straightforward
behavior. You know, playing baseball and persecuting
the neighborhood fat kid. One of the friends goes
home for dinner and, in a pinch, the remaining kids
decide to let the fat kid play ball. Amazingly, the
fat kid slams a long drive over the back field fence.
Now, before you start cheering for the fat kid, who
has managed to salvage a come from behind win in
baseball on par with Charlie Brown himself, the
remaining ball playing friends mock the fat kid's
efforts, sending him to get the ball that he hit out
of the park. The fat kid stumbles his way through
the underbrush and reaches the ball, which he has hit
into the middle of the roadway.
Triumphant, he seizes the ball and turns to return to
And he gets hit by a truck.
Talk about your born losers.
But things aren't over yet--no sir. We then fast
forward to the future, where the ball playing gang
has reunited at an old lodge. And while they're all
expecting something big from one of their old
friends, what they actually get is...well...it's
really rather predictable.
First off, their casting choice for the fat kid role
was really, really poor. This kid is only fat if
your standard of normal weight is Somalian.
Emaciated Somalian at that. This kid is really not
that heavy. Sure, he's wearing this really doofy
looking pair of Gary Oldman-esque sunglasses from his
shot on "Bram Stoker's Dracula," but hey--is that
reason to get picked on? No, says I, on behalf of
every other poor schlub with shoddy fashion sense.
And the truck that hit him? It doesn't even slow
down. Not a tire screech or a swerving sound to be
heard. Somehow, I genuinely can't buy that someone
would be driving along, see a kid run out in the road
almost two hundred feet away (at least that's how far
it looks from the perspective we're given), and not
at least try not to hit him.
Worse yet, Burton's favorite shot and plot device
appears to be "Shove the camera into someone's face
while they deliver dialogue / react to important
events / eat a sandwich." I swear, Burton has
managed to find a way in which the cheesy set design
ceases to be an issue simply by virtue of not
actually allowing anyone to see anything but the
character's faces. And seeing them in such
incredible detail that we can see right down to the
The camera, you see, is a mere eight inches away from
the character's faces.
And then, the all important sequence that truly makes
this a Brain Damage flick crops up just before the
forty two minute mark as an elderly woman is buried
in the ground up to the neck and her head driven over
with a snowblower. It's not a Brain Damage flick
until, at some point, chunky red goes flying at the
However, I'll admit that things get plenty creepy the
farther in you go. Especially toward the end, which
is the biggest, strangest part of the movie.
The ending, you see, offers all manner of deranged
plot twists, messy death sequences, and surprises of
all manner. Despite a truly annoying sequence laden
with strobe lights, the ending is still sublimely
creepy. Not to mention a truly fantastic twist
The special features include a behind the scenes
featurette and an abundance of trailers for "Invitation," "Vulture's Eye," "Hellbound," "Strange
Things Happen At Sundown," "Vampire Sisters,"
"Goregoyles: First Cut," "The Tenement," "The Shunned
House," "Goth," "Hollywood Vampyr," "Death Factory,"
"Hell's Highway," and "Terror Toons." Pretty much all
of them are laden with blood, dismemberment,
decapitation, naked chicks, blood, poor production
values, shoddy scriptwork, mock satanic rituals,
blood, and pretty much everything that'll make you
turn up your nose in disgust at the entire slate.
The "Goregoyles: First Cut" trailer alone made me
regret the entire creation of surround sound.
All in all, Invitation may have its problems, in fact
it may have many problems. The last twenty minutes
are pretty much the only high point in this otherwise
slag heap of a movie. But, it is still one of if not
the best things Brain Damage has going for it. Which
really says something about the Brain Damage catalog
David A. Cross
Any movie that takes place on Halloween is generally a movie to pay attention
to. There's a long legacy of movies that took place on that dark and evil day.
Some of them are excellent blockbuster titles that forever lodge themselves in
the national pantheon. Others are utter wastes of DVD plastic--just plain
Ghost Watcher firmly lodges itself in the latter category.
So what we have here is the story of an agoraphobic living in a haunted
apartment. Wow...talk about your catch-22's, eh? She lives with a paralyzing,
irrational fear of wide open spaces (read: anything outside her apartment),
meanwhile, the one SAFE place she's got is spook central!
What does our frightened agoraphobic do? She goes on the internet and orders a
load of ghost tracking gear off a "ghost hunter" website. She even goes so far
as to enlist the services of the same "ghost hunter" that she brought the crap
from. Not that this is any kind of "serious ghost hunter," if such a thing
actually exists--the girl's got a "members only" section on her web site that
involves her hanging around in skimpy lingerie for thirty bucks a month. Not
exactly a promotional bell ringer--I know I'd never select a ghost hunter on the
basis of who looks the hottest on their web site.
The ghost hunter, along with the agoraphobic and the agoraphobic's friend / sole
link to the outside world that doesn't involve a computer, spend the rest of the
movie hunting up the ghost of a man who killed the agoraphobic's family. Of
course, it seldom works so simply--frequently the ghost hunters are rebuffed and
beaten, bruised and bloodied by the ghost they pursue.
Ghost Watchers has a very tenuous hold on its audience. It is by lengths
frightening and confusing, with segments that are truly bone-chilling inserted
in the midst of events that have no conceivable explanation. They insert long
skeins of exposition in the middle of the movie, and frankly, I have no clue
where they're going with this. Their plot requires so much less time than this
to complete, that they're just basically running filler material to keep up the
runtime. You know, like writers DO sometimes when they can't think of much else
to say but they have a deadline and a minimum word count. Kind of like I just
But seriously, Ghost Watcher needed a heavy editing hand. I have to think that
it could have been a quality movie if they would have reworked the script to
remove the repetitious and confusing segments.
The ending might very well be magnificent, but since I really couldn't follow
what happened in the preceding hour and twenty minutes, I can't vouch for the
quality of what I just saw.
The special features include director's commentary, Spanish subtitles, Ghost
Watcher trailers, deleted scenes, alternate ending, gag watcher (which is really
just a blooper reel with a clever name), and trailers for Open Water and Ju-On:
The Grudge (the Japanese version, still Sarah Michelle Gellar free).
All in all, Ghost Watcher has its creepy moments, its truly suspenseful bits,
and some truly excellent segments. But these are overmastered by the wide
expanses of pointless, incomprehensible filler material. This renders Ghost
Watcher nearly unwatchable for all but the most patient.