We Have a Ghost, Netflix’s recent horror comedy starring David Harbour and Jahi Di’Allo Winston, tells the story of a teenager named Kevin who moves with his family to a knowingly haunted house in Chicago. However, they are unaware of the situation despite the realtor and neighbors knowing well something is happening in the place. Once they move, Kevin meets and becomes close to Ernest, the spirit that lives there.
The film explores variated themes, mainly centering on family and human relationships, social media, and the supernatural. After a video of Ernest goes viral online, the ghost becomes a celebrity, and the family starts to be stalked by the media and his fans. Kevin’s Dad, Frank, is not bothered by this. The presence of Ernest helps the family earn money and go afloat in a difficult financial situation.
Despite how entertaining the premise is, We Have a Ghost was a hard-to-watch film. The feature is messy and addresses too many characters, themes, and storylines. Sometimes these types of stories can function well. However, the articulation of everything going on together is unsuccessful. The film did not interest me enough all the way through, its tone varies, and I got completely lost. It could have been better if treated as an adventure film, mystery, or drama. The comedy is not helping because Ernest’s story is serious and sad. The tone makes it lose importance.
When the film centered on Kevin and Ernest’s relationship and the need for the teenager to help him, I was interested and wanted to know more. I think that both actors achieve to make the bond feel genuine. Also, both characters feel more tri-dimensional than everyone else in the story. Kevin has a complicated relationship with his father and sees understanding in Ernest. On the other hand, Ernest feels connected to Kevin, likely because he misses his daughter. They find a tight bond and genuine friendship to help each other within their possibilities.
All the other characters feel less complex and belong to an outdated style of comedy. The social media aspect does not help at all. The way Ernest becoming viral is treated in the script and visuals has nothing to what we have seen before in film. It is playful and may appeal to younger audiences, but honestly, that storyline is unnecessary for the film to work. It takes out the seriousness and makes Ernest look like a joke. Even when films are comedies, we need to see complexity in the characters to feel engaged.
The only positive aspect that I clanged to be able to finish the film was the cinematography. The visuals of the film are incredibly careful and beautiful to watch. It also feels fresh at times, which I wasn’t expecting based on the genre of the feature. When the center of the visual is the house, the colors, and patterns help to keep interested. The production design is also very well thought out. The only visual aspect I felt a little off is the aesthetic created for Ernest and the decisions behind his look.
As the film advances, some of the magic of the haunted house is wiped too. The film genre feels suddenly like an adventure feature, and we find the characters on a road trip. The exteriors feel slightly abrupt, about the careful interiors we see mainly at the beginning. Also, another storyline appears: the paranormal investigator and government chase. This particular storyline makes the film even messier and unnecessary.
All in all, the major issue with We Have a Ghost is the script. Most of my problems with the feature need to be resolved in writing; when writing is inconsistent, you get a messy story full of shallow characters. The film could be 30 minutes shorter and more straightforward, and it would have worked way better.
When it comes to an end, we finally see how Ernest can eventually cross and rest in peace. Kevin achieves his desire to help him, and there is an emotional moment between them. When I saw this part, I genuinely felt that that moment was what the film was about: these two characters, their improbable friendship, and their journey. Nothing else mattered, and I felt bothered to bear everything else that didn’t add anything bothered to be distracted. I think We Have a Ghost has the problem most commercial films do; they look to entertain and do more to fit broad audiences. I think studios should focus more on their characters and scripts and let them breathe and less on the car chases and fireworks.