If Villains at night two of Cinepocalpyse was defined by its tendency to withhold where it could’ve been gratuitous, night three’s Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary was defined by its commitment to exactly the opposite. A Brazilian export from director Fabrício Bittar, this film is an hour and forty-five minutes-worth of juvenile jokes, blood by the buckets, and really fun special effects.
The Ghost Killers frame narrative is essentially one big, relentlessly self-referential spoof. After some high schoolers perform the school-specific Bloody Mary ritual in the bathroom, killer ghost Catarina is freed to wreak havoc and starts trying to take out kids. Enter: the Ghoulbusters—a severely discounted gang of three hybrid Ghostbusters-meet-Ghost Hunters and their classically and endearingly overenthusiastic tagalong.
The gang makes terribly mockable videos for a dwindling YouTube channel, and the disbelieving school principal calls them in, not for what they insist will be a real ghost eradication (“A $40,000 job,” they irrationally haggle, in response to the $1,500 offer), but rather to raise the morale of the children who keep watching paramedics load their bloody, convulsing friends into ambulances after what should’ve been a routine trip to the loo during math class.
Now, I don’t have many issues with Bloody Mary, but if I’m going to single something out, it’ll be the fact that it was just a little bit too long. Like, roughly 20 minutes too long. And I’m mentioning this here, because I think that most of that immensely cuttable 20 minutes can be taken from this first act.
After the film’s opening sequence of the boys performing the Bloody Mary/Catarina ritual in the bathroom, it really takes a while to get back into the action. And for a movie that is so obviously and unabashedly about that action, about prioritizing and showcasing the best special effects in the creative teams’ trick bag, what’s the point in wasting time with exposition?
Even so, it’s pretty small marbles as complaints go, for a film that was otherwise incredibly fun and also, fun. Once we did get into the action, the special effects were near-constant. Each scene served as little more than a playground for showcasing its well-designed art piece, whether that be a possessed and prosthetic-laden monster, a medium’s spontaneously exploding skull, or (one of my personal favorites) a damn good fetus puppet that used its still-attached umbilical cord as a strangling lasso while also jerking off into the faces of a Ghoulbuster and the gang’s number one (read: only) teen boy fan.
Yeah, I mean, it’s that kind of movie.
To further illustrate what I mean about it being that kind of movie, there’s also a point where a school security guard we’ve previously learned likes to take shits in the kids’ high school bathroom goes to take a shit in the kids’ high school bathroom. After he’s done and washing his hands, the big, goopy log he forgot to flush slithers out of the toilet after him. And what does he do? He starts to shoot it, the shit, with a firearm. Regardless of how you feel about literal shit humor, you gotta appreciate the pun. (And—c’mon—we all know you like shit humor.)
Despite how utterly ludicrous the whole thing is from toe to tip, don’t mistake me in reading goofy or cheap. Wrapped in all of the hammed-up comedy, the genuine scares were still there and this is yet another credit to the effects department, with hearty and well-deserved nods to the cinematographer (Marcos Ribas), committed cast of actors, and, of course, the director.
What my mind kept flitting to is something Shaun of the Dead (2004) director Edgar Wright said about the making of that movie in Shudder’s recent and most-excellent documentary Eli Roth’s History of Horror. Roughly, he said that Shaun wasn’t intended to be a funny-scary movie, but rather a scary movie infused with comedy. It’s not always either/or, and both Wright’s classic film and Ghost Killers do a fine job of proving that you can still be scared, even while you’re laughing.
In an ode to our collective overlord, Joe Bob Briggs, I’d give Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary a hot three stars and a classic “Check it out.” (And I have reason to believe that, soon, you’ll be able to do just that from the comfort of your own home, courtesy of a little service called Netflix. Keep your eyes peeled.)