Review: Ghost Hunters – Gespensterjäger (2015)

Ghost Hunters – Gespensterjäger (2015)

Directed by: Tobi Baumann | 100 minutes | animation, comedy, family, fantasy | Actors: Anke Engelke, Milo Parker, Bastian Pastewka, Karoline Herfurth, Christian Tramitz, Christian Ulmen, Julia Koschitz, Ruby O. Fee, Amy Huberman, Bibiane Zeller

“Writing books for children is the most beautiful profession in the world, the most beautiful. There are few things that are half as fun as telling stories to children (and yourself too, but that’s another story).” The multi-award-winning German writer and illustrator Cornelia Funke genuinely loves her profession. In 1999, her first book was published in Dutch; ‘Knight Stories’, a collection of stories about knights and other medieval figures. In 2003 Funke received a Zilveren Griffel for ‘The gang of thieves from Scipio’. That story was made into an English-language film under the title ‘The Thief Lord’, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Vanessa Redgrave in the lead roles. ‘Heart of Ink’ was also filmed under the name ‘Inkheart’ (2008). Despite an impressive cast, including Helen Mirren, Andy Serkis, Jim Broadbent, Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, that film was a flop and (as yet) nothing has come of the ambition to film the complete trilogy.

Instead, there’s now a film adaptation of Funke’s other successful children’s book, Ghost Hunters – a four-book series, opening the door for sequels. It is a German-English-Irish co-production, shot in English (with a largely German cast and crew) and then dubbed into German. In Dutch cinemas, a version dubbed in our language is shown, with voices by Tygo Gernandt and Chava Voor in ‘t Holt, among others. The young British actor Milo Parker, who looks a lot like the young Thomas Brodie-Sangster from ‘Love Actually’ (2003), plays Tom Thomsen, an eleven-year-old boy who is quite anxious in life and partly because of that has few friends. It’s not going well for him at home either; his parents just leave him alone at home and his adolescent sister never misses the opportunity to kill her brother. Tom has a vivid imagination and a fascination with ghosts. Sometimes he hears strange noises in the house. But ghosts don’t exist, right…?

When Tom has to fetch a bottle of wine from the cellar for his parents, he suddenly finds himself face to face with a green, slimy monster. Once he has his fear under control, Tom discovers that this is a friendly ghost (in professional terms an ‘ASG’ – an Everyday Ghost Form) that goes by the name Hugo. He has only been living in the basement of the Thomsens for a short time after being chased from his familiar mansion by an ancient and evil figure. Since then, an icy cold wind has been blowing through the city – and that while it is high summer! Hugo enlists Tom’s help in repelling the intruder. They receive support from an unexpected source in their mission: the seasoned ghost hunter Hetty Kummeling (Anke Engelke), who was recently fired from the Central Ghost Institute (CSI) for refusing to keep up with the times, sees an opportunity in this job. excellent opportunity for reparation.

‘Ghost Hunters’ is clearly inspired by several previously released films with the same theme. You cannot ignore the similarities with ‘Ghostbusters’ (1984). Just take Hetty Kummeling’s extensive arsenal of weapons. Ghost Hugo is the love baby of Slimer and ‘Flubber’ (1997) and the friendship that develops between Tom and Hugo is reminiscent of that in ‘Casper’ (1995). Fortunately, these are all films that were made way before the target group of ‘Ghost Hunters’. For them – children aged six to twelve – it doesn’t matter that the story isn’t very original; as long as the ghost makes jokes, an exciting adventure is about to happen and there is a recognizable central character, they go along with the story. And it definitely has to be said: the special effects in this movie are just fine, especially towards the end when the big showdown is with the icy antagonist. This makes you wonder whether the film isn’t just too exciting for the youngest viewers, but isn’t that an extra reason for children to want to watch the film?

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