Ghost from the Machine (Matt Osterman, 2010)
Last Tuesday (which as I write this was December 10) was one of those rare days when I didn’t put a single foot wrong with my movie watching; everything that came off my Netflix queue ended up being pure gold. Of the bunch, my favorite was Ghost from the Machine, a low-budget thriller bursting with intelligence. It crossed my mind more than once that this is the movie Primer wanted to be and, in my estimation, never managed to become. So, needless to say, Universal is remaking it, rather than using the rights to push a film that deserves far, far wider recognition than it has so far gotten. Why do I get the distinct impression the remake, if it ever surfaces, will be dumbed down to the point where it’ll be unrecognizable?
Plot: Cody (See Jane Run‘s Sasha Andreev)’s parents died in a car accident, and since then, he has had two obsessions: taking care of his younger brother James (Aberration‘s Max Hauser) and building a machine that will allow him to communicate with his parents in the afterlife. Of course, doing such things requires parts, parts, and more parts, and a certain combination of same brings him to the attention of Tom (Factotum‘s Matthew Feeney), who builds pieces on the side that Cody has bought through the store Tom sells them to. Cody’s machine, with all the bugs worked out of it, starts doing what it was made to do—with results that neither Cody nor Tom could have predicted.
The great thing about Ghost from the Machine, like last year’s similarly excellent Bellflower, is that this is a movie that Osterman could have easily taken in a generic sci-fi or horror direction, but instead, this reminded me a great deal of the wonderful little 2004 French film Les Revenants; Osterman instead focuses on the characters’ reactions to what’s going on around them rather than spending all the movie’s time reveling in the wonderment of “hey, look what we did, and how many CGI effects we used to do it!”. This is not a movie for the stuff-blows-up crowd, which unfortunately limits its appeal to the broad market, but those who appreciate intelligence, empathy, and a great story will find this exactly the kind of thing they’ve been looking for all their lives without realizing it. ****