by Kelsey Zukowski, published on January 10, 2010|
Starring: Ellen Page, Barbara Alyn Woods, Carlos Alazraqui, Michael Kaney, Tim Progrosh, Krista Mitchell, Gary Hudson
Directed By: Kelly Sandefur
Written By: Jeff Phillips
Earlier this year I reviewed Ghost Cat, a family friendly ghost story starring a young Ellen Page. It was cheesy and a very tame brand of horror; the supernatural element being the only thing that even allows it to qualify. Still the film was goofy and pretty fun in the end. Since I got a kick out of the friendly ghost cat saving the day, I decided to check out another family friendly ghost film starring an even younger Ellen Page, I Downloaded a Ghost. Once again we are given a friendly ghost who with the help of Pages character helps track down the true criminals. The effects are pretty horrible, but in a campy way and its easy enough to not take much seriously and just have fun with the film.
Stella Blackstone (Page) is a 12-year old girl who loves all things spooky. She spends all of her time in her garage that she has made in to her own haunted house full of monsters, cryptic costumes, and plenty of tricks to scare anyone who ventures inside. Stella is constantly trying to scare those around her with the gadgets she creates, but the only person in her life that approves is her friend, Albert (Kaney), who looks up to her and is fascinated with all of her creations. Stellas mother (Woods) just wishes she would forget about her scary movies and wear dresses and make-up instead. Her father (Progosh) just got a principals position at her school and is on thin ice with the head of the school board (Hudson) thanks to his spoiled and bratty daughter, Terri (Mitchell), constantly framing Stella and making her look bad.
Stella wants to make her own haunted house and enter it in the towns competition, which Terri has a major problem with. She gets her dad to hire contractors to build it for her, making her a shoe-in for the win. Stella is determined to make her haunted house stand out and downloads a ghost from Ghosts Are Us, which to her surprise actually works. She finds Winston (Alazraqui), a recently deceased cab driver with dreams to be a stand up comedian, in her garage. After getting Stella in a bit of trouble, Winston agrees to help Stella create a memorable haunted house if she agrees to help him right his wrong so he can move on. Right before he died, he had a very valuable, stolen antiquity. Since then its been missing and the thieves are still out there. If they can find it and reveal the truth then they can set everything right, but they only have until midnight on Halloween or Winston will be doomed to spend the rest of eternity in limbo.
Ellen Page does well in portraying the individualistic, resourceful, and determined horror enthusiast, Stella. Barbara Alyn Wood of One Tree Hill plays Stellas controlling but good hearted mother well, even if the character isnt all that admirable. Few of the other performances are notable. The thieves play the roles as pretty over the top imbeciles trying to be sly. Gary Hudson as the head of the school board has a flat yet exaggerated performance.
The opening title sequence shows the most laughable graphics, looking like a bunch of clip art animation followed by a sudden eerie organ sound effect. The effects of the ghost when he changes form are about as basic as you can get. Still they all have a very cartoony effect that adds to the cheese factor, and not just in a bad way either. Some of the dialogue is really simplistic, but it is geared for kids to enjoy and it does makes it easier to laugh at. One example that stood out to me was when the ghost is sure that he is just dreaming and suggests that they try to pinch themselves to wake up. When Pages character does this she just replies, Ouch! No, that just hurts. Our standup comic ghost has some pretty awful jokes that he is always spouting out, but most of them are actually intended to be bad so it works. Some of the dialogue is a bit more savvy and enjoyable though.
The opening scene was pretty fun as it mocks the opening to Scream, with the Jiffy Pop and an anonymous spooky caller asking for Stellas moms favorite scary movie. This reenactments and attempted scares with full, realistic costumes and atmosphere are an everyday occurrence for Stella, which makes her a pretty cool kid in my book. Aside from a lame joke or two, just about everything about I Downloaded a Ghost is pretty hilarious. Its pretty hard not to have a good time while watching it despite bad effects, a lack of much violence, and a pretty tame account of the supernatural.