Director: Jack Snyder
Writers: Jack Snyder, James Dean Schulte, Srikant Chellappa
Starring: Elisabeth Röhm, Stacey Dash, Waylon Payne, Roma Maffia
DVD, PG-13, 96 minutes, $24.95
Available: August 25, 2009
Review by Sheila Merritt
It is known from the movie The Ring that watching a video can lead to supernatural and probable lethal occurrences. The film Ghost Image borrows from that premise, as well as featuring a lovely blonde leading lady trying to solve a mystery. Coincidence? Highly unlikely. Being derivative, however, doesn’t necessarily make for bad cinema. In fact, a successful movie that is derivative is often called a “homage.” Has writer/director Jack Snyder created a “homage?” No. But he hasn’t constructed a truly poor movie, either. Ghost Image is a serviceable spectral story, with some nice eye candy.
The plot, which does differ from The Ring scenario, concerns a lissome video editor (played by Elisabeth Röhm) whose lover dies in a car accident. This isn’t the editor’s only encounter with deadly vehicular violence. In her childhood, her younger sister and their parents were killed in a crash; she was the lone survivor. Because of long term guilt feelings, she is seeing a psychiatrist and taking pills for sleepwalking; her character is set up as being emotionally fragile. Her fragility is taxed further when the dead boyfriend starts talking to her from a video; saying things that weren’t previously recorded. Compounded with ghostly visions of her sister, the lady’s stability is questioned by the police. The cops are involved since it is determined that the brakes were cut in the car driven by her lover: Her car.
There is a subplot about the boyfriend having recorded an exchange that could be incriminating to a politician. Other possible red herrings are provided in the interaction among the secondary characters which divulge jealousies and sexual competition. It appears that the protagonist could be a mentally disturbed murderer; or the victim of a vicious stalker; or the recipient of revenge. All are presented as viable options, which become tangled up in the narrative in a less than satisfactory manner.
What works in the film is Röhm’s performance. It comes across as a lesser Virginia Madsen in Candyman, but has appeal. The St. Louis setting is different and creates an interesting ambience, and the art direction well reflects the characters. The story, on the other hand, is a bit too convoluted for its own good. In trying to initially seem complex and ambiguous, the twist resolution doesn’t have the emotive power that it should. Another negative is actor Waylon Payne as the love interest. He has minimal chemistry with Röhm, and not enough charisma or charm to convey making two women insanely adore him.
Ghost Image is a low budget movie that misses the mark in much of its ambitiousness. It is a pleasant enough way to pass 96 minutes, but will be forgotten soon after viewing; sort of like a vague phantom image – or a blur, on a video.