We Have a Ghost (2023) Review!!

Synopsis – Finding a ghost named Ernest haunting their new home turns Kevin’s family into overnight social media sensations. But when Kevin and Ernest investigate the mystery of Ernest’s past, they become a target of the CIA.

My Take – What does Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), Happy Death Day (2017), Happy Death Day 2U (2019), and Freaky (2020) have in common other than the fact that they are all (mostly) written and directed by Christopher Landon? They all manage to subvert expectations by deliciously mashing up the genres together. And this latest is no different.

Though it skews a bit more YA or PG-13 than writer-director Landon‘s earlier, blood-splattered work, here, a warm heart replaces the gore of his earlier film, resulting in a spooky, crowd pleasing treat.

Based on the short story, Ernest, by Geoff Manaugh, for this one writer-director Landon taps into the familiar premise of comic haunted house films and adds his own spin on it for the modern age. Backed by a solid cast, an intriguing plot, and decent special effects, the film is a fun version of the typical ghost story and seeing David Harbour playing a ghost with an unattractive haircut and not being able to say any words, makes it feel utterly fresh.

Sure, it does lose some integrity around the 90 minute mark and feels like the third act could’ve done with a bit of tweaking, yet Landon‘s script remains delightful for a good chunk amount of time and the characters remain endearing enough to keep you interested until the very end.

This one is a solid recommendation especially if you’re looking for something on the lines of Ghostbusters (1984), Beetlejuice (1988), or Casper (1995).

The story follows Kevin (Jahi Winston), who along with his parents, Frank (Anthony Mackie) and Melanie (Erica Ash), and older brother, Fulton (Niles Fitch), has moved yet again in to a new house, a prospect about which he is not too thrilled about. Mainly as Frank has made a habit of going for ill-advised business ventures that necessitate their moving from place to place.

However, his life changes when Kevin, while exploring the attic, ends up encountering a ghost of a man in a bowling shirt with the name Ernest (David Harbour) stitched on it. Though Ernest tries in vain to scare Kevin off, he ends up recording the apparition on his phone, and the two strike up a friendship as Ernest has no recollection of how or why he died.

But when Frank and Fulton find the video on his phone and post it on the internet, they quickly turn Ernest into a viral sensation much to Kevin’s annoyance. Meanwhile, Kevin remains determined to help Ernest and allow his soul to fully leave earth, working with his next door neighbor Joy Yoshino (Isabella Russo), he begins tracking Ernest’s identity. Unknown to the family, Ernest’s publicity has also put him in the sights of Dr. Leslie Monroe (Tig Notaro), an agent of the CIA paranormal program called Wizard Clip, who wants to take him into custody.

Unlike his earlier films that have more intensity and heightened elements of fear and horror, this one is a much more tapered-down version of his somewhat uniquely unhinged style typical with wistful turns and instead takes on a family-friendly approach to the haunted house/ghost genre with some magical and sweet moments.

While the stuff around centered around the house is very good with the satire of internet fame and haunted house trappings, director Landon takes the action on the road in a creative way as Kevin, Joy and Ernest search for more clues to Ernest’s identity and we get some really creative and humorous sequences that often had me giving solid belly laughs. He also deftly handles the emotional bond that develops between the socially introverted teen and the ghost.

It’s the bond between Ernest and Kevin that keeps the film going, their friendship is pure and sincere. Even the quiet moments are stirring and feel earned, with the poignant scenes hitting the necessary emotional beats to save the film. The unlikely friendship also makes Kevin more outgoing, improving his relationship with his dad, and also lands him a girlfriend in next-door neighbor Joy, who joins him on his mission to help Ernest.

Another major anchor of the film is the grounded emotions that the characters share. On the one hand, we get to see the tension between Frank and Kevin. Kevin is lately distant from Frank due to his constant involvement in failed businesses and Frank treating Ernest as some money minting pet, while Kevin sees Earnest as someone being stuck in the house. The emotional speech that Frank makes to Kevin in the later part of the film, expressing his failure shows us a bond growing stronger between the father and son.

At the center of the film is undeniably David Harbour‘s a fantastic performance. Though he can’t speak, Harbour manages to create a compelling character, not only scoring big laughs from his physicality and the pantomime nature of his performance, but also eliciting some strong emotional resonance and a sense of sadness and tragedy that makes you really care about him.

Newcomer Jahi Winston puts in a winning performance and does a good job of making his interactions with Ernest and Isabella Russo very endearing, and when the three of them are together in the film they play off nicely against each other.

Anthony Mackie, Erica Ash, and Niles Fitch get some good mileage with their roles. Tig Notaro is also very good, and so are Faith Ford and Steve CoulterJennifer Coolidge playing a Long Island Medium-inspired reality TV host is an inspired casting. On the whole, ‘We Have A Ghost’ is a fun, heartfelt horror-comedy anchored by David Harbour’s great physical performance.

Directed –

Starring – David Harbour, Jennifer Coolidge, Anthony Mackie

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 126 minutes

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