Director Christopher Landon has shown success making quirky horror comedies. His latest, We Have A Ghost, is no exception. Lighter on the horror than his previous endeavors, this new film streams exclusively on Netflix. We Have a Ghost is what would have happened if Casper grew up and only materialized in the modern world of Tik Tok challenges and internet celebrities. Boosting a talented cast, the movie is a fun if meandering journey.
When a feuding family moves into a run-down house, they soon discover a shy specter (David Harbour) hiding in the attic. Young, lonesome Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) quickly befriends the ghost. Soon after, his father (Anthony Mackie) catches an exchange on his smartphone and uploads it to YouTube causing Ernest the Ghost to go viral. While Ernest gains a multitude of fans, he also catches the attention of a Ghostbusters-esque branch of the government. They wish to capture and militarize the apparition. What follows is a journey through subgenres. We get a little road trip, a little crime thriller, a little science fiction, a little family drama, a little comedy, and a teen coming-of-age story, all blended together in one package.
The film is based on a short story by Geoff Manaugh and expanded into a feature-length film. We Have a Ghost does feel overstuffed with a two-plus hour runtime. However, changes in tone and genre, while not seamless, keep the movie moving. A switch from broad comedy to heavy drama can be a little jarring. However, it sets up the switch to thriller in act three more naturally. While there is not a clear distinction in style, the film’s heart is the connective tissue. Through it all, We Have a Ghost is carried by the sweet relationship built between Kevin and the mute Ernest.
Not all components work as well as others. The comedy segments are often laugh-out-loud funny. In particular, a montage of the original video going viral and inspiring Tik Tok challenges involves running into a wall. Another segment, with Jennifer Coolidge as a television medium, lands several chuckles playing off Coolidge’s own real-world viral presence. However, the ghostbusting plotline falls flat. It serves very little purpose and resolves itself just as quickly as it begins. The thriller component homages the genre’s classic characteristics but lacks the slow-build suspense to make it extra chilling.
There is some absolutely stunning wide-shot cinematography, both in the house’s interior and once the action hits the road. The juxtaposition of wide shots in usually claustrophobic spaces like an attic cleverly makes the audience feel safe with Ernest. Ghosts are typically portrayed in tight quarters, conveying a trapped feeling. Instead, cinematographer Marc Spicer opens the space up, relying on wide shots to relay that Ernest poses no threat.
Ultimately, We Have a Ghost is a mostly entertaining film even despite its length and tonal unevenness. It earns its laughs, the cast is strong, the cinematography is unique, and the story feels relevant. While more meaning could be harvested out of storylines – including an absent father and the effects of overexposure on social media – the film has heart. The emotion is genuine. Don’t be scared to view this ghost movie.