Four YouTubers with expertise in supernatural events are seeking recognition from the audience whilst solving the urban legend of the Bathroom Blonde Case. The spirit that haunts the schools’ bathroom in Brazil.
The comedy horror movie is surely one of the most difficult sub-genres to do well. Many have tried, most have failed for one reason or another; go too heavy on the violence and gore and the comedy seems out-of-place, but go the other way and the horror loses its bite. It’s a very fine balancing act, which is why the list of truly great comic horror movies is very short indeed. For my money the only movie to have a foot solidly in both camps is An American Werewolf In London – judged to perfection, being hilarious in places and petrifying in others; there are dozens more successful efforts which lean more heavily into the comedy like Re-Animator, Army Of Darkness, The Cabin In The Woods, Tucker And Dale vs. Evil, Zombieland and of course many of the later entries in the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise.
One of the more recent attempts to join the club is 2019’s Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary from Brazil. The movie stars TV comedian Danilo Gentili as Jack, head of a somewhat less-than-professional young band of alleged paranormal investigators; the rest of the group made up by Dani Calabresa as Caroline, Léo Lins as Fred and Murilo Couto as Túlio. The group operate out of a back room in Túlio’s uncle’s rather unsanitary butcher shop – an early gag involving him using his meat grinder as an impromptu ashtray lets us know we’re probably going to be heavier on the comedy than the horror side of things.
The group call themselves “The Ghoulbusters”, an intentional rip-off of another of the big genre players, Ivan Reitman’s evergreen Ghostbusters. Complete with suspect logo (source of another funny gag as characters argue about the differences between the classic ‘Busters emblem and their own, as theirs is in fact a ghoul in a give way sign….) and ropey-looking homemade spook-finding equipment, the four friends attempt to make their living by cynically faking paranormal encounters for their YouTube channel, while fending off a never-ending wave of derogatory comments on social media. It isn’t long (pretty obviously) before the group unintentionally find themselves up to their chicken necks in a genuine supernatural encounter.
This comes courtesy of the local high school, and the sudden appearance of Bloody Mary, an evil apparition manifested by saying her name aloud three times, each time followed by a flush of the toilet (don’t recall that bit from Candyman). The Ghoulbusters are called in by the school’s cynical principal, who just wants them to put on a show to convince the students that Bloody Mary’s been appropriately exorcised so he can go back to his easy life; if you’d never seen a horror movie before though you could probably take a guess that she would of course turn out to be real, and that the gang are going to end up fighting for their lives.
The four leads of the film are good in their roles and pretty likeable; their constant bickering is buoyed by some sharp one-liners and a witty script. The movie is totally self-aware, from its obvious Ghostbusters homages to the knowing use of pretty much every horror cliché in the book (the sudden face in the mirror, blood running down the walls, the creepy girl with long hair obscuring her face – the list goes on and most of them crop up here); the film’s tongue is embedded firmly in cheek with them though, there is even a funny running gag between two bit-part extras discussing the fates that are probably in store for them.
The plot to be honest is pretty thin, merely a frame to hang a series of gross-out humour set pieces on, but the movie has just about enough charm to get away with this. One thing that surprised me was the very early death of the main female character Caroline; she doesn’t really get a chance to do much (other than pull off a decent joke about the distinct difference in the amount of flesh shown by the respective male and female versions of their new Ghostbusters-inspired uniforms) before she is unceremoniously offed at the 35-minute mark! While scribbling notes I smugly wrote something along the lines of “I bet she comes back though” – nope, she’s toast with another hour and twenty minutes to go.
The special effects range from decent to really rather good; they are used to embody some pretty original sequences, such as a foetus – recently escaped from a specimen jar – committing some Farrelly brothers-esque atrocities involving its umbilical cord, exploding heads, gallons of fake blood Dead Alive-style, and various dismemberments. Most of these are done with practical effects which is nice to see, although their quality does vary. The movie borrows heavily (albeit intentionally much of the time) from lots of different sources, including Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners, Candyman and (obviously) Ghostbusters, and some sequences seem to be cribbed from more obscure movies like Ghoulies and even I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle.
The main thing that will determine how much enjoyment you get from Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary is really how low-brow you can stomach your humour. While there are quite a few genuinely funny moments throughout, and the script is very witty in places, most of the humour is of the low-hanging fruit, gross-out type; you’ll know within the first twenty minutes if this is going to be your cup of blood or not. Some of the jokes are not quite as funny as the writers obviously thought, and are dragged out Family Guy-style (if you watch the show you know the ones I mean) for far longer than necessary which drags occasionally; and the movie is a little long for its own good, clocking in at an hour and forty-eight minutes, which in all honesty for something of this nature is probably a good twenty minutes too long. And while there are no surprises whatsoever – everything plays out pretty much as you’d expect from the opening credits – the plot is really only of secondary value here; the film isn’t scary but never really intends to be. If you’re looking for some light horror combined with lots of schoolboy-level humour you will find there’s fun to be had here.