Director/Screenplay – Danny Draven, Producers – Danny Draven & Jojo Draven, Photography – Michael King, Music – Jojo Draven, Visual Effects/Digital Makeup – John Lechago, Pyrothechnics – Henry Gordon Jago, Makeup Effects – Krystle L. Randall, Production Design – Mike Brown. Production Company – Darkworld Pictures
Marina Resa (Alyssa Barnes), Shirley To (Miss Wu), Rick Irvin (Blake Rizi), Jerod Edington (Jacob), Akiko Shima (Aunt Chen), Kierstin Cunnington (Nicole), Erica Edd (Tessa)
Alyssa Barnes decides to leave her troubles in the city and takes a job as housekeeper for Miss Wu and her elderly mother at their home in the Nevada desert. There she sees Miss Wu and her mother engaged in nightly rituals to appease the dead. Miss Wu explains that it is Chinese Ghost Month where the spirits of the dead can roam free and various observances must be made to keep them at bay. Without realising it, Alyssa inadvertently breaks some of the rules. Soon after, she starts seeing ghostly things and experiencing hallucinations. She begins to believe that these might relate the previous housekeeper Mei-Ling who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. She befriends neighbour Blake Rizi, although later finds evidence that indicates he may have murdered Mei-Ling. At the same time, Alyssa’s ex Jacob becomes obsessed with finding her and starts to employ ruthless methods to do so.
Ghost Month is a film from Danny Draven. Draven rose through the ranks, working principally as an editor on various films from Full Moon Productions (where his contributions were often credited under the names of characters from Doctor Who). He began directing with low-budget fare such as Horrorvision (2001), Cryptz (2002), Deathbed (2002), Hell Asylum (2002), Dark Walker (2003), Reel Evil (2012), The Offerings (2015), Patient Seven (2016) and Weedjies: Halloweed Night (2019).
While most of his earlier directorial outings were made under the aegis of Full Moon and their various subsidiary companies (and as a result fall into their sometimes tongue-in-cheek, wilfully trashy approach), with Ghost Month Danny Draven has determined to take personal control of the production and make his own more seriously minded effort. While you can applaud the ambition, the results are mixed. It is probably an ominous sign for a film like this when you look at the opening credits and there are no recognisable names anywhere. In a desire to find to some kind of recognition, the film makes great play out of having won and been nominated for several awards at a Chicago Horror Festival – each of these is even listed as wallpaper behind the end credits – but the film noticeably took three years to get a dvd release and then disappeared with only bad notices.
You commend Danny Draven for making a serious ghost story, which immediately elevates it over the only other Draven film I have seen – Hell Asylum. Ghost Month‘s problem is that Draven directs the entire show at a fatally slow pace. He aims for the atmosphere of a classic ghost story and produces a variety of shocks. The film’s crucial failing is that these shocks are so utterly tame and unmemorable that they can be forgotten moments later. Danny’s wife Jojo performs the film’s score but this becomes overly insistent in its constantly pressing the viewer to regard scenes as atmospheric.
Many reviews quickly consigned Ghost Month to being a wannabe in the spate of US-made copies of Asian horror films – The Ring (2002), The Grudge (2004), Dark Water (2005) etc. One suspects this is more to do with some Western viewers seeing the fact that Draven has set the film around Chinese rituals and immediately lumped it together with a bunch of other Asian horror remakes simply by virtue of the fact that it features other Asian people’s and traditions. (There has been a distinctive lack of films among the 00s Asian horror fad emerging from China or Hong Kong, for instance). Nor is there is ever anything in the way of viral curses and long-haired girls creeping across the floor and other familiar tropes that you get in these Asian horror films. Rather the storytelling format that Danny Draven draws on is the traditional Western ghost story where everything ties back to some crime in the past demanding that it be expiated in the present.
Full film available online here:-