Can places trap evil spirits and thereby become not just haunted, but dangerous? Quite a lot of people believe that they can and therein lies the basis of the haunted house, a motif that appears endlessly in horror and thriller movies. Certainly, if something evil has happened in a home, it’s not a big stretch to conclude that perhaps the energy of that deed remains after the people have vacated the premises. Would you want to spend the night in a room where someone was murdered? Or set up a hobby room in a basement where someone was tortured or died a terrible death?
The indie horror film The Last Ghost Hunters, also known as The Last Ghosthunters and Greek Fire – Demon Spirit, explores this common horror trope through the explorations of three courageous young supernatural investigators. They’ve learned of a ramshackle abandoned home in the tiny hamlet of Peru, Indiana, and want to study it to confirm their theories about the presence of spirits in locations. The “Spirit Research Team” are Faith (Moli Hall), a young woman perpetually dressed as a 70s hippie, Mitch (Ransom Pugh), the team leader, and Kelley (Kelly McKinney), videographer and avowed skeptic. Faith is a paranormal intuitive, which means that she’s able to “pick up the vibes” of the spirits and communicate with them.
Told mostly in the style of a faux documentary, the story of them exploring the creepy derelict home is interspersed with interviews. From an appealing young couple who felt they had experienced a presence when they had been dared to visit the home to the local sheriff who reveals the number of people who have gone missing near the house for decades, they offer an interesting veracity to the story. The basis of the haunting seems to be an incident from decades earlier when an abusive husband drove his wife and child to the home and reputedly murdered them. Or maybe just murdered the wife. Or didn’t murder anyone since after Mom vanished, the girl was then living with crazy Dad, though never seen, according to the Sheriff.
The Last Ghost Hunters is a well-trod tope-laden story. The malevolent spirit that does indeed haunt the house is a hulking male presence, but because of its predilection for wearing a WWII-era German gas mask (for no obvious reason), we never see its face. Not quite the evil Nazi in the basement, but not too far off either. When the team of paranormal investigators get caught up communicating with the spirit of the little girl (effectively played by Harper Taylor) and possibly her murdered mother Alyson (Leanne Johnson), it’s time for the bad spirit to show up and wreak havoc. Soon the team is split up – always a mistake in a horror film – and it’s up to Faith to save the day. Her secret weapon is “Greek Fire”, a concoction made from common herbs but with the extraordinary power to “open up” the gates between the mortal and spirit world and free any trapped ghosts. It does, however, typically have some adverse consequences, as quickly becomes obvious in the film.
This is indie horror at its best, loose, a bit incoherent, without much backstory, but a cast clearly having fun making a film on a proverbial shoestring. While the team are an endearing trio who seem like they would work well together, it’s the house itself that really makes the film work. There’s a sense that writer/director Dan T. Hall might have found the house and then wrote a film around it, but the exterior offers up a creepy and ominous presence even in the bright daylight of an Indiana afternoon.
The real gem of The Last Ghost Hunters is the sound and foley, however. With this year’s amazing soundscape in Dune, top director Denis Villeneuve reminded filmgoers that the audio is a huge aspect of the cinematic experience. In its modest, low-budget way, The Last Ghost Hunters also delivers a film that needs to be heard as much as seen. You’ll want speakers behind you and around you, a 5.1 or 7.1 audio setup turned way up, and even as the visuals can be a bit trite and the story baffling, the audio will definitely pull you into the story.
If you’re a fan of indie horror, there’s a lot to like with this creepy mockumentary, even if it goes a bit off the rails in the last third and has a flat denouement. It’s a promising outing for the actors and production team and is time well spent. I look forward to their next film. Recommended.