“Ghost Team One” aims to do for “Paranormal Activity” what “Scary Movie” did for “Scream” — parody a successful horror franchise with a raunchy mix of scatological and sexual humor — but an aggressively obnoxious tone undermines a decent concept and appealing cast. Insufferable result fails as subversive satire or simply a silly good time, limiting the appeal of helmers Scott Rutherford and Ben Peyser’s feature debut to the frathouse circuit and like-minded havens for lowbrow humor. Simultaneous VOD and modest theatrical release from Paramount (home of “Paranormal,” natch) reps the savviest way to capitalize on minimal commercial potential.
As presented in de rigueur found-footage fashion, slacker buddies Sergio (Carlos Santos) and Brad (J.R. Villarreal) throw a wild house party leading to an unexpected discovery: Their home is haunted. And rather than any old run-of-the-mill spirit, it’s the ghost of an Asian prostitute they’re living with. Would-be hilarity ensues, severely hampered by an overall lack of creativity and uninspired exploitation of the “erotic paranormal activity” premise.
Despite the potential to push the envelope of hard-R content a la “Scary Movie” 13 years ago, there’s very little nudity (a random extra flashes her breasts at the camera early on, while a later shot of Brad sleeping in the buff inexplicably blurs out the nether-regions) and absolutely no explicit sex. Not that anyone can accuse the filmmakers of good taste, given the foul-mouthed preponderance of masturbation jokes and sexual references. A juvenile sensibility dominates throughout, extending to the characterizations of the guys’ third roommate, Chuck (Tony Cavalero), a racist moron and drug addict struggling to stay sober, and significant femme roles — foxy paranormal groupie Fernanda (Fernanda Romero) and Brad’s burnout friend with benefits, Betsy (Meghan Falcone).
Even with the atypical casting of two Latino leads, the pic makes no attempt to avoid the typical genre pitfalls of sexism, homophobia and racism, with Asians particularly bearing the brunt of the tasteless jokes. The largely unseen and completely unheard cameraman is named Billy Chen (Eric Sun), and seems to exist exclusively so Chuck can call him “Ching Chong.” Cavalero’s over-the-top idiot reaches his nadir in the third act when he’s possessed by the sex worker’s spirit (he starts making pho and dressing in flowered robes). What might have been a provocative gambit of role reversal all too predictably devolves into an absurdly prolonged minstrel show, replete with “me so horny”-level humor.
Santos and Villarreal get off to a shaky start with thoroughly unappealing characters, but eventually develop a likable camaraderie buoyed by solid comic instincts. An unexpected reference to Alfonso Cuaron’s “Y tu mama tambien” and an amusing punchline to the requisite Ouija board scene (“It’s made by Hasbro!”) hint at the possibilities if they had had more consistent material to work with. Romero and Falcone similarly show flashes of promise above the restrictions of their roles.
Production value isn’t much of a concern when parodying a franchise as minimalist as “Paranormal.” With that in mind, tech credits are passable, though the editing and sound work could be sharper.