Before I get started, I want to make a disclaimer that this is NOT a review of the Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore movie Ghost. Now that that’s out of the way, if there’s one thing that I believe takes away the scares from a horror film, it’s usually action. I can’t tell you the number of times when a horror film or game franchise became less scary because there’s just too much shooting going on. However, when in the hands of a capable filmmaker, this can be circumvented. Now the question is, does indie horror filmmaker Dillon Brown’s newest film Ghost (2023) do just that?
After surviving multiple stab wounds inflicted by the skirmish against The Flock, Ghost (played by Michael Rock) reveals that he is a mercenary who works for the Vatican whose mission is to wipe out evil cults to protect the world. He is given a video from his dying father, Jeremiah (played by Vernon G. Wells) telling him that he must destroy an evil cult named Kosmos who are trying to summon a fallen angel to bring about the end of the world. To aid him, the Vatican assigns him a partner named Eve (played by Amanda Morgan). Along with a scribe from the church named Monk (played by Dillon Brown), the two mercenaries must stop Kosmos and their leader dubbed The Chosen One (played by Joshua Myron McKinney) before they can achieve their goals.
Unlike Brown’s other films, Ghost (2023) is not purely a found footage horror film. It is much more action-packed and incorporates many cheesier elements from the 1980s. We see demons and demon-hunting mercenaries, gun slinging action and even a taste for the fantastical! The best way I can describe it is if Resident Evil married Supernatural. Brown was greatly inspired by the films Vampires, Priest and Demons in addition to the Doom video games. And it certainly shows! Ghost felt like an action-horror video game while at the same time never truly losing its found footage roots. Ghost (2023) makes me believe that Dillon Brown would do an excellent job at properly adapting the Resident Evil games to live action, something many other filmmakers have failed to do. Despite being made on a budget of $4,500, it makes the most out of its meager budget to create a finished product that feels larger than life.
Michael Rock continues to impress me with his acting. While he was in two of Dillon Brown’s films, being The Flock and Tahoe Joe, he really shines in Ghost (2023). Michael perfectly conveys Ghost’s trauma after his many missions against various demonic cults. You can feel his anguish at losing his comrades and really empathize with his emotional suffering. He tells Ghost’s story brilliantly with a small change of tone in his voice, or even a slight shift in his gaze or body language. My favorite example of this is near the beginning when Ghost recounts his time as a mercenary and the camera focuses on his fingers trembling, showing just how much his time as a mercenary for the Vatican messed him up. Yet despite his trauma, he forges on and proves to not only be a capable soldier, but also a positive mentor figure for Eve. As a former Ranger in the U.S. Army and Green Beret, Michael shows absolute comfort with handling a variety of weapons from assault rifles, to shotguns, handguns and blades.
This brings me to the relationship between Ghost and Eve. Despite Ghost not wanting another partner after his old partner, Simeon (played by Toma Smith), went missing, he is forced to work alongside Eve through orders of the Vatican. And although he is initially frustrated with Eve, throughout their time together, the two bond over their reasons for joining the Vatican’s fight against the demonic forces of evil. But despite the two acting as a solid team, Ghost’s true best friend is Monk. As a scribe, he has taken a vow of silence, yet it doesn’t prevent his chemistry with Ghost to shine through. It certainly helps that Dillon and Michael are both good friends in real life!
But my favorite performance has to be Joshua Myron McKinney as The Chosen One. Unlike the sadistic and enigmatic Crow from The Flock who came across as a cult leader akin to Charles Manson, The Chosen One is presented as a twisted yet passionate pastor who frequently preaches to his followers about how every action they take is leading them one step closer to their goal: to bring about the end of days. Joshua Myron McKinney portrays The Chosen One as a dramatic, calm yet violent man who has a taste for the theatrical. The best way I can describe him is if Moff Gideon from The Mandalorian met Joker from The Dark Knight. This is Joshua Myron McKinney’s first feature length film, and I am not only thoroughly impressed by his performance, but expect him to become the next Giancarlo Esposito!
One of my favorite themes is the recurring question of faith most frequently asked by Ghost. He asks this to Father Thomas, and later both Eve and Monk as Ghost himself tends to do so himself. Throughout the film, Ghost brings up many excellent points about faith, specifically that if there were a God, why would He care more about arbitrary stuff than the wellbeing of His creations? As Ghost continues on his journey to bring down Kosmos, he also goes on a spiritual journey to not only rediscover his own faith, but also faith in himself.
Now something else I’d like to mention is that Dillon Brown’s production company, Horror Nerd Productions, has also taken the role of hiring veterans and current servicemen and women of the U.S. Armed Forces over traditional actors as it serves a method for treating PTSD. And although I don’t normally do promotions, this is a special case. So far, Horror Nerd Productions has brought in a Green Beret (Michael Rock), Air Force (Toma Smith), Marine (Shane Lux) and EMT’s in addition to several members of a coalition to combat child predators. Not only are they doing a noble job, but it is also a great opportunity for veterans to find employment and treatment!
Out of all of Dillon Brown’s films that I’ve seen, Ghost (2023) is truly his most ambitious film that he’s made so far. Created on a higher budget and shot on weekends over the span of 5 months, I’m continuously impressed by his creativity and vision. Unlike his other films, The Flock and Tahoe Joe, Ghost (2023) does something entirely new while also staying true to its roots. I’d never expected to see an expansion of the world of The Flock, yet Ghost (2023) manages to do so perfectly. Dillon Brown is certainly no stranger to cinematic universes, so perhaps we may see a cinematic universe surrounding Ghost and the Vatican. As a love letter to both 1980s action and found footage horror, Ghost (2023) is another knockout for Dillon Brown. Streaming July 9th on both POV Horror and Wicked Horizon, check this one out if you’re in the mood for some badass action and horror!