Friday, November 16, 2012

Cinemasochism: BABY GHOST (1995)

It is mid-November so that means it is almost time for Thanksgiving.  So it is only appropriate that I watched this big turkey.  And guess what? I’m not thankful for it.  Yes, it is that time for me to squeeze in another cinemasochistic journey from director Donald Jackson and his crew of regulars including Joe Estevez and the inimitable Conrad Brooks.  Coming out the same year as his children’s endurance test LITTLE LOST SEA SERPENT, BABY GHOST is another shot-on-video stab at the kids’ video market.  And trust me you’ll definitely feel a stabbing pain in your brain after watching this one.

BABY GHOST opens with a theme song that will let you know exactly what kind of trouble you’re in for (sample lyrics: “Baby Ghost, I’m a Baby Ghost, Buh-Buh-Buh-Baby Ghost” and “I’m gonna scare yooooou.”).  We open in a high rise as child photographer Winslow Copperpot (Joe Estevez) is trying to get an unruly kid to stop blowing bubble gum bubbles during their session.  Sensing a long night, the boy’s mother sends his two younger sisters out to get some candy from a vending machine.  When the youngest runs afoul of a weirdo security guard (James D. Whitworth), she hides in a storeroom and discovers a tiny cigar box wrapped in chains.  She undoes the lock on it and unleashes the Baby Ghost. Well, I guess she does as all we really see is the box shaking on a metal drum.

Back in the photo studio, the mother is fed up with Copperpot and she and her family split, but not before her son leaves behind his handheld video game (believe it or not, this is integral to the plot later). Copperpot is stressed out and decides to relax by doing his favorite hobby – calling a psychic hotline!  He calls to speak to Madame Zora (Erin O’Bryan) and she reads his Tarot cards. Naturally, the reading is bad and she says “strange and unexplainable events are about to happen.”  Yeah, like wondering how can my career sink this low?  Zora is kind of freaked out by the reading and she decides to do her own and gets the exact same sequence.  Uh oh, time to punch out for both of them.  What Copperpot and Zora don’t know is – spoiler – they both work in the same building and soon find themselves unable to exit the place.

Meanwhile, outside the building two bungling brothers, Vinnie (Mark Williams, who also scripted this mess) and Rocko (Andy Hubbell), wait patiently in their car because they plan to break into the building and rob the place.  Back inside we have Copperpot unable to leave because the elevator is stopping on every floor.  He tries to get the maintenance man Elliot (Conrad Brooks) to fix it, but when asked to look at the elevator he stands there and gazes at the thing. When asked what he is doing, he responds, “You told me to look at the elevator!”  *rimshot*  That’ll let you know the level of sophistication we’re dealing with here.  Elliot teams up with the security guard while Copperpot somehow gets trapped in his own studio.  This gives us his first encounter with the Baby Ghost, which comes in, grabs a pair of scissors and starts cutting up his work. Man, Baby Ghost is kind of a dick.

Copperpot eventually is able to open his door long enough for Zora to come into his studio and then they get trapped inside again.  They go through the “you sound familiar to me” routine before they discover who they are.  Zora reveals her real name is Mildred Crabapple, which Winslow Copperpot finds to be a hilarious and ridiculous name.  Yeah. They decide they must combat this Baby Ghost and Zora consults her book on supernatural phenomenon.  This brings us to the film’s dialogue highlight when they are discussing what to do.

Winslow Copperpot: “Who you gonna call?”
Madame Zora: “Ghostbusters?”

Yes, nothing says cultural relevance than referencing the biggest comedy hit from 11 years previous.  Let me speed this up: they discover the box and find out that inside was the soul of a child that died in Arkham, Massachusetts in 1635. Whoa! An H.P. Lovecraft reference.  They figure they need to get it back into the box so they leave a trail of donuts on the floor. This almost works but gets foiled by Elliot and the security guard, both of whom believe this thing is a space alien.  They then try plan B which involves putting the video game in front of the box.  Even Zora finds it ridiculous that a 300-year-old Baby Ghost would be drawn to something that it has no idea what it is, but Winslow convinces her by saying, “Trust me, I have five nephews.”  Anyway, it works.  FIN!

Well, BABY GHOST did live up to the promise in the theme song as it did scare me.  I’m still reeling from the fact that I sat through this 86 minute flick in one sitting. Well, I did pause about halfway through to send my friend Dave – the unkind soul who sent this to me – a text that read “Watching BABY GHOST. I’m gonna kill you.”  To be honest, this wasn’t as painful as I was expecting.  Like any hardcore junkie, perhaps I am developing a level of resistance to the hard stuff?  Maybe Conrad Brooks is too soft for me and you’ll soon find me smoking Dave “The Rock” Nelson flicks?  Okay, let’s not get crazy here. This is still rough stuff that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  To be honest, this might be feature the best acting I’ve seen in any of Jackson’s SOV works I’ve seen.  The burglar brothers actually have a goofy rapport and some of their bits are genuinely amusing.  Had this exact script been shot on film with a Moonbeam budget, it might have been passable.  I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention the schnoz on the security guard, which might be the film's biggest asset.  Seriously, check this bad boy out:

Alas, we’re still talking about Donald Jackson in the 1990s here so you know the end product is going to be cruder than the Gulf of Mexico after a BP oil spill. “Fans” of LITTLE LOST SEA SERPENT will immediately recognize the creature from that one as the titular spirit here.  At least Jackson was resourceful.  A majority of the ghost footage is the little creep overlaid on static shots.  A few times they actually use the dummy live on location (by dummy I mean the Baby Ghost dummy, not Joe Estevez).  The one thing that I’m always curious about is if these films get brought up during the Sheen/Estevez family meetings.

Martin Sheen: “I’ve got THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT coming out this year. What have you been up to, Joe?”
Joe Estevez: “I’ve got LITTLE LOST SEA SERPENT and BABY GHOST coming out.”
Charlie Sheen: “Has anyone seen my Coke?”

This was actually Joe’s fifth feature with Jackson and he would come back for six more after this one.  I guess he was the Robert de Niro to Jackson’s Martin Scorsese.

Anyway, BABY GHOST is only for the bad movie junkie who feels the need to test their limits. Just like LITTLE LOST SEA SERPENT, this promised a sequel in the end credits.  I, for one, am happy that BABY GHOST 2 got aborted.

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