A little research reveals it was built by an inventor of torture devices — a man considered "an evil version of Leonardo da Vinci. They called him the Devil's Craftsman." The coffin is a "ghost machine" constructed to allow its users to safely experience the sensation of death without actually dying. One goldfish test later, Kyle and his wheelchair-bound roomie, Sutton (J. Walter Holland), give ’er the ol’ college try themselves, resulting in out-of-body experiences.
Naturally, this is a Very Bad Idea. It has to be, or else The Ghostmaker would have no reason to exist. While not a rock-’em-sock-’em horror picture, it’s a pleasant blend of the supernatural suspenser and morality tale that dates back to the genre’s literary roots: Power corrupts. Kyle climbs in the coffin often in order to grab money to pay off credit card debt and a ferocious meth habit, while Sutton uses it to get close to women who don’t give his handicapped self the time of day — in particular, Kyle’s girlfriend (Liz Fenning), who sure does bathe a lot.
Directed and co-written by Mauro Borrelli (Haunted Forest) and co-produced by Oklahoma City native Ford Austin (director and star of the bug-nuts-insane Dahmer vs. Gacy), the film reminded me in theme and setting of the recent Australian effort Needle — and not only is the word spoken by a character, but a trailer for the 2010 flick plays before the main attraction on this Lionsgate DVD.
Without spoiling how things turn out, The Ghostmaker benefits from being well-shot and its uniquely designed creature, whom I wish received more play. (Sequel, perhaps?) The one element in which the film errs is that Kyle — our protagonist, the audience surrogate — is an utter douchebag. It’s hard to latch onto him, leaving you to root for the reaper. Considering the success of the Final Destination franchise, that’s not always a bad thing. —Rod Lott
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• Needle DVD review