We Have a Ghost recently landed on Netflix, directed by Christopher Landon, the man behind the surprise hits Freaky and Happy Death Day. However, despite the promising cast and crew, We Have a Ghost doesn’t quite hit the right notes.
The film follows the Presley family as they move into a house that was abandoned overnight by its previous occupants one year earlier. Despite its run-down and overgrown appearance, the Presleys have been taken in by the low asking price and a chance for a fresh start. After dining on takeaway pizza for dinner, dad Frank (Anthony Mackie) clashes with youngest son Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) over his sullen mood, apparently, a common theme within the family as wife Mel (Erica Ash) and older son Fulton (Niles Fitch) look on in despair.
Later that evening, Kevin is woken after he hears movement in the attic above his bedroom. When he goes to investigate, Kevin comes face to face with a ghost who tries his best to scare him off, but all Kevin does is laugh and record it all on his phone. The following day, Kevin goes back up into the attic and encourages the ghost, Ernest (David Harbour), to engage with him and the pair strike up a friendship.
Later that evening, Fulton discovers the video of Ernest on Kevin’s phone and shows it to their father. After making the boys swear not to tell their mother, Frank uploads the video onto the internet as a money-making scheme. While it receives quite a few views, the majority of watchers are sceptical about the authenticity of Frank’s video.
Determined to prove that Ernest is real, Frank and Fulton go up into the attic. With help from Kevin and an unwitting Mel, Frank gets the footage he needs and videos of Ernest go viral online, bringing Frank the media attention and money he so desired. However, it also brings Ernest to the attention of shady CIA Director Schipley (Steve Coulter) and Dr Leslie Monroe (Tig Notaro), who have even less honourable intentions with Ernest than Frank, while Kevin and neighbour Joy (Isabella Russo) are the only ones who try to help discover who Ernest really is.
There are some aspects of this film that are incredibly likeable. The special effects are surprisingly good and how this portrays social media phenomenons is incredibly well done and realistic. Jahi Di’Allo Winston is an engaging young lead and his pairing with the mute David Harbour makes for a very likeable friendship and is very entertaining to watch. Harbour himself puts in a brilliant performance, managing to turn an entirely wordless role into a masterclass of facial expressions and emotion. He also looks like he’s having the time of his life playing Ernest. Almost stealing the show however is Jennifer Coolidge in her cameo role as Judy Romano, the West Bay medium, who is an absolute hoot as always whenever she’s on screen. It’s just a shame she’s only around for a few minutes.
Unfortunately, the rest of We Have a Ghost is rather underwhelming. The film is far too long and drawn out and could easily have been cut down by at least half an hour, and the plot with the CIA as the bad guys is tired, lazy and predictable. Frank as a character suffers the most of all, with some apparent grudge against his own son that is never properly explained, which makes him come across as very unlikeable. There are quite a few heartwarming moments throughout which are surprisingly sweet, but it’s severely lacking in laughs or anything even remotely resembling humour which it desperately needs. Even the finale where we find out who Ernest is and what happened to him is an anticlimax, which is frustrating as they could’ve turned the mystery of Ernest into a much more intriguing and entertaining storyline. The whole film is a huge letdown, there is so much more potential in Harbour and Winston to be able to put together a plot much better than this.
We Have a Ghost has a great cast and director oozing with potential, that this film just sadly doesn’t make the most of. It’s got a lot of heart and a faultless turn from David Harbour, but that isn’t enough to make this memorable.
A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!