directed by Ben Peyser & Scott Rutherford
by Walter Chaw Kind of a cross between Paranormal Activity and American Pie, Ben Peyser and Scott Rutherford's Ghost Team One is buoyed by a game cast and a certain relentlessness but let down by an extended conclusion that finally crosses the line from offensive-but-funny to offensive-offensive. Before that, there's virgin Sergio (Carlos Santos) and his horny, neo-Stiffler buddy Brad (J.R. Villarreal) outfitting their pad with cameras and enlisting a third, largely-unseen buddy at the handheld in the pursuit of ghost-hunting--or so they tell the beautiful Fernanda (Fernanda Romero). Really, this project seems designed around the chance of maybe capturing some uploadable gonzo porn. This promises oodles of nudity in a supernatural-tinged sex-romp, but, alas, what we get are a lot of masturbation jokes and an Asian burlesque from otherwise-hilarious frat-boy Chuck (Tony Cavalero), which starts in a bad place and descends to a very bad place during an extended exorcism scene. Opportunities to attack Mormons are squandered along with the chance to craft something with the sort of '80s lawlessness of The Last American Virgin. The film can't even take a successful swipe at The Blair Witch Project, though it tries.
Ghost Team One isn't titillating, then, and is never frightening (it tries that, too, with a couple of standard jump-scares) as Sergio and Brad's ghost-hunter ruse actually uncovers an authentic spook in their midst. Admittedly, an extended gag in which Sergio expresses his extreme discomfort only to have Brad offer to hand Sergio his underwear is almost worth the price of admission by itself; too bad the picture begins to show the seams of its high concept about halfway through. Great moments like Chuck working out his rage in the front yard give way to a cheap CG stunt that proves all the more unnecessary for the chemistry that Santos and Villarreal demonstrate elsewhere. Ghost Team One is good enough, often enough, in fact, that when all hell semi-literally breaks loose, it feels like something of a cheat. No worse in that way than the similarly-intentioned This is the End, I guess, yet it seems rather a shame that it would betray, ultimately, the same shaky faith in its premise. The movie stops being smart and starts being vulgar. There's room for vulgar, of course, but this team proves capable of better.