A Horror-Comedy That Delivers On Neither Premise

Feb 25, 2023

Forget the “Ghostbusters.” It’s the doctors you’ll want to call after watching “We Have a Ghost.” A film about a dead father, this picture will give you more headaches than nightmares, more sulks than shivers. The film takes the premise of haunted house movies–the ones where a monster lives upstairs–and tries to update it for a younger crowd. It’s “Paranormal Activity” on YouTube, and it’s one of the more frustrating things we’ve seen all year.
READ MORE: ‘We Have A Ghost’: David Harbour On His Supernatural Comedy, ‘Thunderbolts,’ ‘Stranger Things,’ & Neil Blomkamp’s ‘Gran Turismo’ [The Discourse Podcast]
Put together by Christopher Landon (“Freaky,” “Happy Death Day”), a director who mixes genres like candy, “We Have A Ghost” does not know what kind of movie it wants to be. It’s a comedy without laughs, a horror flick without scares, making it one of those rare films that can’t be defined at all. Part of the problem is all those darn genres. Besides the whole haunted house thing, “We Have A Ghost” throws in a story about a family looking for a fresh start, a tragedy about a father looking for a lost daughter, a commentary about a kid looking for a new friend, and a romance about a loner connecting with another loner, all of which are thrown together like a mixed bag.
During the first act set-up, we get to know our teenage protagonist, who is filled with anger and angst about moving to a new home. Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) winds up exploring the upstairs attic, which is big enough to house a basketball court and has enough dust to fill a swimming pool. Along with a few boxes, he finds there’s a ghost named Earnest (David Harbour) who’s been living up there for 50 years. Unable to speak or write, Earnest communicates through a series of hand gestures that aren’t so much scary as they are funny, leading Kevin to film the ghost.
When dad (Anthony Mackie) finds a video of the ghost, he posts it online, hoping to make a few extra bucks. After a few viral encounters (one with the great Jennifer Coolidge), he winds up turning Earnest into the most significant thing on the internet since Tide Pods. A bunch of people tries to capitalize on that fame and proceed to track down Earnest until Kevin takes Earnest out of town and goes on the run with his girlfriend Joy (Isabella Russo).
There are a few inspired moments, meta jokes, and wacky chases, but there is never a coherent tone, and the pace sags, which is weird for a high-stakes adventure. You keep waiting for things to get a little scarier or a little raunchier, but there’s a wow factor missing from this horror-comedy, which falls flat. Perhaps it’s the need to keep things family-friendly, even though it’s a film where a ghost melts into a skeleton, or maybe it’s the need to keep things adult-friendly, even though it’s a film where a ghost melts into a pile of flowers.
Whatever the case may be, “We Have a Ghost” tries to add too many elements to the mix–the horror, the comedy, the drama, and the message about how we need to leave our dead behind. Without committing to a tone, it all feels a bit mangled. It’s a movie that wants to be a mix of everything but, in the end, winds up being nothing. [D+]

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