London Australian Film Festival: Ghosthunter Review
Made over seven years, Ghosthunter is a documentary that’s partly about its own production. However, not all ghosts being hunted and uncovered and laid to rest are of the supernatural kind.
Director Ben Lawrence made contact with Jason King, a security guard from Sydney who runs a ghosthunting business on the side. If you have poltergeists or ghosts in your home, Jason and his team are your men and women. He doesn’t charge, except for his petrol. He just wants to help people remove unruly spirits from their lives.
Jason’s first supernatural experience came just after his older brother Peter’s funeral, after he died in a road accident. Sitting at home, Jason saw Peter in his front room, and he spoke to him. Jason had only known Peter since the age of eighteen, as their mother had had him adopted shortly after his birth. While Jason had a sister (Linda) he hadn’t known that his brother existed. Jason had made Peter a promise that he would find out if they both had the same father. That’s when things take a disturbing turn. Hospital reports come to light which record Jason being admitted with broken bones. He had facial reconstruction surgery at a very young age and still has some of the scars – none of which Jason has any memory of receiving.
Further revelations come when Cathy, who had been a childhood friend of Jason’s, gets into touch with him via Facebook, and then they converse via text. Jason has no memory of her either. While the abuse Jason suffered was physical, Jason’s father (now disappeared, though Jason has photographs of him) was a sexual predator on young girls, some of them as young as six or eight – and Cathy was one of the survivors of this
Soon after, Jason’s father is found in Perth and is extradited back to New South Wales to face trial for sexual offences dating back thirty years. Jason is estranged from his mother, who declined all requests to be interviewed for this documentary. Meanwhile, Jason is trying to keep his life together, despite episodes of depression and at least one suicide attempt. But the damage is deep, probably lifelong. Early on you notice that Jason’s relationships with his girlfriends don’t last very long, and in time we (and Ben Lawrence) discover why, that Jason has his own darker side, though one he is seeking help for. He has the support of his friends, his colleagues in his ghosthunting business. Via correspondence with his imprisoned father, he does find an answer to the mystery which put him on this trail in the first place. Maybe, one day, he can be free from his own ghosts, his demons. Ghosthunter is a moving film, but in its acknowledgement of its subject’s own demons, an entirely unsentimental one. Needless to say, the verbal descriptions of abuse will be distressing and maybe triggering to some.
Ghosthunter is a documentary, but it’s as crafted as any work of fiction. Lawrence establishes a mood from the outset, with surround-sound rainfall at the very start, a discreetly-used music score from Rafael May and Supertramp’s “The Logical Song” (though it’s a solo version by the song’s co-writer Roger Hodgson) over the end credits. Karen Johnson’s editing won the film an AACTA award. Lawrence is the son of director Ray Lawrence, who made Bliss, Lantana and Jindabyne, in the first of which Lawrence junior had a small acting role. His first fiction feature, Hearts and Bones, premiered at the Sydney Film Festival in June 2019.
Ghosthunter showed at the London Australian Film Festival. Further UK distribution is to be confirmed.