Neil George’s Ghost Searchers upholds the tradition of goofy paranormal investigators in potentially life-threatening situations, tied neatly with a happy ending. Labeled a dark-comedy, the 20-minute film strikes a satisfying balance between comedy, horror and drama.
The film makes it a point to hit the familiar beats but with a spin on it each time, such that they add up to a story that has shifted ever so subtly onto fresh territory. Take, for instance, the introduction of the house in question. Unlike usual tropes, it is not an ancient house; quite the opposite, in fact. Matt (played by Max Doubt), chief investigator, quips as he records his observations, “House could use a new coat of paint and some landscaping.” The case this time presents Robert (Dylan Terrill), a man who cannot live in the house he has only recently bought, because every night at 11:47, a disembodied entity makes its presence known in the kitchen. A whistling teapot, flying flames, and angry cupboard doors.
The film does not bother with jump scares, choosing instead to build the story organically, allowing it to feel realistic and every day, without losing view of its personal significance. It is an enjoyable change to find that the story progresses rather like a suspenseful thriller in search of answers rather than blood-curdling horror.
George gives the story something of a meta treatment: the investigators are often found disillusioned about the state of their profession. No one believes in paranormal activity anymore. Because of the comic nature, the film never takes itself too seriously, and yet, the drama, when it is time for it, lands well. While Jonny Lee’s Jeff is almost entirely a comic presence, Katie (Ashley McIntosh) falls on the other end of the spectrum, providing the dramatic share of the plot, as well as essential backstory. Here once again the story sidesteps usual stereotypes: the ghost is male and harmless.
With Ghost Searchers, Neil George opted for a series of shifts that steered the film from being the sum of a collection of story tropes into a commentary on them. Does it have room for improvement? Yes. But as it stands, by being more human than horror, Ghost Searchers serves as a reminder that stories need not be larger than life (times two) to be meaningful.
Watch Ghost Searchers Short Film Trailer
Ghost Searchers: Subtly Undoes Horror Tropes