Horror pictures have always had a tough time in Brazil. From competing with international productions and local comedies with bankable stars plucked from national television, Coffin Joe seems to have been the only horror movie series to survive on its own in this desolate cinematic landscape. This is a shame, since there actually several notable legends and icons in Brazil that would be perfect for scary movie treatments. In fact, our version of the widespread Bloody Mary legend has always intrigued me, and that’s why I was excited when I heard about Fabrício Bittar‘s horror-comedy Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary.
The film chronicles the exploits of a rag-tag team of Youtubers/Paranormal Investigators (Danilo Gentili, Dani Calabresa, Léo Lins and Murilo Couto) as they are hired to pretend to eliminate a haunting at a local school in order to divert attention from a series of recent accidents. Unfortunately for the bumbling investigators, this “fake” haunting just so happens to be real, and they find themselves locked inside the school for an entire night, forced to face the wrath of the infamous Bloody Mary.
The general setup and characters reminded me a bit too much of Supernatural‘s hilarious Ghost-Facers (one of the best things to come out of that show), but I was willing to give Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary a chance, if only for the novelty of a Brazilian horror comedy. Having our main characters be struggling Youtubers actually provides a lot of potential humor to the situation, especially considering the huge amount of real-world digital influencers that the movie could have borrowed from.
Unfortunately, even the Youtuber angle isn’t fleshed out as well as it could have been, with the movie preferring to dabble in entry-level scares and tired genre tropes instead of carving its own path. A lot of the time, it feels like Bittar doesn’t even like horror films, as he appears to be dutifully crossing items off a list of things that he believes should be present in every scary movie.
I wouldn’t find that so bad, as I do tend to enjoy a lot of cliché-filled productions so long as the rest of the film is well-executed, but Ghost Killers has a peculiar habit of pointing out obvious horror tropes as if it were a satire, but then proceeds to play all these elements straight. These moments might have been intended to be Scream-like meta-commentary on the genre, but their lazy insertions make it feel like the filmmakers are laughing *at* the genre, instead of with it. Honestly, it feels a bit mean.
Nevertheless, there were some impressive gore and monster effects on display here (except for some lame CGI jump-scares), with a particularly amusing scene featuring a possessed human fetus performing unspeakable acts in a biology classroom. The effects work is surprisingly solid when you consider some of the film’s more technical flaws, with quite a few creative designs. If these absurd moments had been complemented by memorable lines or genuine laughs, it would have been easy to ignore most of the issues here, but that’s unfortunately not the case. Even though most of the main cast is comprised of comedians, the jokes rarely land, and the characters usually fall flat.
While I’ll be the first to commend the team for a getting a gory genre picture off the ground in Brazil, at the end of the day, a good script doesn’t cost any more than a bad one, so there’s no excuse for the lazy writing here. Bloody Mary herself isn’t even developed as a villain (and her design is surprisingly boring as well), making for a disappointing experience. Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary may not be the worst horror-comedy out there, especially considering the limitations that the filmmakers faced here, but it’s kind of disappointing that this is the story they chose to move forward with.
Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary screened at Cinepocalypse 2019.