Polterheist is a lot of things – a gangster movie, a comedy, a bit of a horror movie. None of those labels really accurately describe this funny, sometimes brutal but always engaging film though. The long and short of the plot is that two lifelong friends who’ve ended up on what most would argue is the wrong side of the law have made a severely poor choice and killed their boss. To make matters worse, HIS cricket bat wielding boss (played by the fantastic Pushpinder Chani and his incredible hair) now wants the money he’s owed and gives them a 72 hour deadline to get it for him. Bit of a sticky wicket right? What are two down on their luck gangsters to do but hire a medium and try to contact their deceased boss. Obviously this is where things go sideways for them and lead to interesting situations involving the Polish mafia, girlfriends, guns and of course, the money.
Director David Gilbank (who received the Best Feature award at the Vancouver Badass Film Festival for Polterheist) and his team (also VBAFF 5 winners for a variety of things) blend British gangster films with just the right amount of paranormal activity and a healthy amount of dry British wit to create an at times hilarious genre mash up. Much of the strength of the movie lies in Jo Mousley’s portrayal of put upon psychic medium Alice who convincingly plays both the gangster and her mousey medium character. The chemistry between Boxy (Jamie Cymbal) and Tariq (Sid Akbar Ali) lends worlds of credibility to the film with quick back and forths’ and snippy comments that really allow us to believe these two have decades of friendship between them. The handful of scenes involving more paranormal elements (on comes to mind specifically that I’ll refer to here as a throw up to the Exorcist) are done skillfully, with visual effects that don’t end up pulling you out of the experience. The only thing in this regard I would have loved to see more of would be a few more glimpses of how Alice sees the world – full of ghosts doing their ghost thing – but showing us more would have probably reduced the impact of the glimpses we do get.
Polterheist leans into the gangster side of its identity much more heavily than its paranormal side, despite being a movie featuring a possessed medium, and this really works to its benefit. Viewers who were sold on the paranormal elements of the film might just find themselves seeking out other British gangster flicks once the credits roll, which really is a benefit to everyone, though they might be a bit disappointed to find that most aren’t as easy to watch and fun as Polterheist. If you’re coming for a ghost heavy spookfest this isn’t the film to scratch that itch, but if you want a film that blends disparate genres together into something new and unique then it’s in your best interest to seek this one out.
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