Ghost Son (V)

Despite having the dumbest title this side of I Know Who Killed Me, Lamberto Bava’s Ghost Son is a nice, deliberately paced, atmospheric ghost movie, refreshingly light on “typical” Italian horror clichés, such as a stubborn refusal to make any goddamn sense, and characters who are all sans skeletons. In fact, other than Bava’s name and the presence of Corlina Cataldi-Tassoni, one might mistake it for an American film. Or an African one.

The film tells the story of Stacey (Laura Harring) and Mark (John Hannah), a new couple living on an African farm. Mark is there for work, and early on in the film, Stacey decides to stay with him rather than return to the States. Sadly, Mark is killed in an automobile accident a few days later. Despite having no reason to be there, Stacey remains on the farm, and soon discovers she is pregnant with Mark’s child. Once the baby is born, things begin to get a bit strange…

The film shares a lot with Mario Bava’s (Lamberto’s father) final film Shock, in that it deals with a young child seemingly possessed by the spirit of his dead father. But where Shock had a 10 year old kid, here it’s a newborn baby. Trust me, it sounds a lot sillier than it is. Granted, you got to employ some suspension of disbelief, especially in the final act, where the baby begins talking and getting aroused during breast feeding, but since this IS a Bava film, you should have checked logic at the door anyway. At least Stacey isn’t saved by a random helicopter crashing through the ceiling.

It’s a slow film, but not cripplingly so. Much like last year’s underrated The Return, the film is meant for patient viewers who don’t need to be constantly jolted by fake scares and random bloodshed, and can be just as entertained by character development and a story that unravels steadily, rather than in large chunks of exposition. The only things that bugged me, besides the sight of John Hannah’s pubic region (thanks, movie!), were the occasional jump cuts. Since they were used so infrequently and often in a non-‘horror’ context, they were quite jarring. At one point, Stacey and her friend are talking in the living room, and then suddenly they are in the bedroom, but it doesn’t seem like any part of their conversation is missing. Also there’s a needless little “10 years later” epilogue that, other than the nonsensical sight of an elephant running inside an abandoned home, serves no actual narrative or thematic function, as it’s simply repeating what we already knew.

But the film more than makes up for it when the baby suddenly projectile vomits all over Harring. I was just about ready to doze at that point (not a slight on the film – it IS slow but I like that. I’m just a borderline narcoleptic), but this moment kept me awake for the rest of the film AND the one after it. Puking babies – nature’s caffeine.

I have not heard of an actual domestic release for this one (IMDb just lists “2007”, and it’s already been released elsewhere), but I hope some of you folks give it a shot if it comes your way (or, more likely, when it comes on DVD). Despite the odd occurrences (and again, Hannah’s pubes) it’s definitely more accessible than Shock or some of Lamberto’s other non giallo/zombie type films (i.e. Macabre). Recommended!

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Official Score