At Hallowman High School the ghost of a former Principal, who also happened to be a cult leader and serial killer, is unwittingly brought back from the dead by his grandson.
As made-for-TV movies go, this isn’t too bad. It has an enthusiasm about it that is rather endearing and despite not really knowing whether it wants to go for full on horror or horror / comedy it’s not the worst way to spend an hour and a half. High school student Quentin (Jonathan Baron) has a lot on his mind. On top of his burgeoning relationship with Whitney (Lauren Pennington) he’s got teacher Myers (Ricky Wayne) pestering him about his alleged links to the school’s disgraced and, thankfully, long dead former Principal Danforth, whose obsession with the occult led him to become a serial killer. When Myers drags Quentin down to the school basement to confront him about his ancestry and the mysterious bag of ancient gold coins he keeps in his locker (I know, but stay with me!), a brief scuffle ensues which ends with the coins spilling out on to the dusty floor. Apparently this is all that is required to literally raise hell, as Myers discovers when he comes face to face with the revived spirit of Principal Danforth (M. C. Gainey).
The rest of the school totally unaware of the demon in their midst, the rest of the school goes about its routine: Whitney enlists Quentin’s help in preparing from the forthcoming Prom; Kimberly (Stephanie Fischer), China (Danielle Greenup) and Dex (Brett Lapeyrouse) rehearse their band; Colt (Marc Donato), the school bad boy, rescues overweight computer nerd Blake (prolific low-budget horror actor Shawn C. Phillips) from jock Dean (Gabe Begneaud) and in return coerces Blake into breaking back into the school later that evening in order to hack into the computer and change his grades. Meanwhile, surly janitor Ortiz (Danny Trejo) encounters Danforth’s ghost and its demonic accomplice (Misty Marshall) and appears to possess a great deal of knowledge about the spirit and how it might be defeated. Unfortunately Ortiz is imprisoned in a closet and is unable to put his knowledge into practice.
Plenty going on then, you might say, even if most of it is pretty familiar stuff. More than anything GHOSTQUAKE (which is its rerelease title – having premiered on TV as HAUNTED HIGH) reminded me of a feature-length episode of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER in its combination of adolescent turmoil and slightly comic horror. The best thing it has in its favour is the cast: Jonathan Baron is a kind of cut-price Robert Pattinson but has an amiable goofishness about him that makes him an appealing hero. Lauren Pennington is a charming female lead and the budding romance between Whitney and Quentin is nicely played. Of the supporting cast, Shawn C. Phillips can do this sort of turn in his sleep but is no less watchable for that. The names that are likely to attract the viewers though are Trejo and to a lesser extent Gainey. Both are under-used truth be told: Trejo spends an hour stuck in a closet which a bit of a waste, while Gainey does little more than appear to deliver enjoyably lame kiss-off lines as his acolyte works her way through the cast.
I should point out however that the film delivers very little genuine horror. It does set up some enjoyably nasty death scenes but insists on refraining from showing the deed itself. It’s very frustrating and spoils the overall effect. I know that, in general, TV movies can’t be as graphic as theater releases but it’s like someone telling you a joke and then disappearing before they tell you the punchline. That issue aside though GHOSTQUAKE is a hokey but fun movie that wins you over by virtue of its tongue-in-cheek attitude and zesty performances.
Ghost Quake (2012)