Director: Ben Lawrence
Screenwriter: Ben Lawrence
Runtime: 101 mins.
Australian release date: 20 September 2018
Previewed at: Dendy Newtown, Sydney, on 30 August 2018.
Ben Lawrence’s Ghosthunter took seven years to come to fruition and it was certainly worth the wait, as demonstrated by its Best Film win in the Australian Documentary Foundation Awards at the Sydney Film Festival this year. Lawrence became interested in his subject after reading an article in his local newspaper about a man who’d seen his brother’s ghost. A Western Sydney security guard and part-time ‘ghost hunter’, Jason King, had placed ads for people to contact him regarding any help needed in dealing with paranormal activity. He didn’t charge people for his services – he only asked for petrol costs – and, by all accounts, he had some satisfied customers. Lawrence’s film shows King and his team in action and what is apparent is his concern for his clients and the fact that he treats them with respect and takes their concerns seriously. There’s no footage of things going bump in the night here.
As time goes on, however, Lawrence discovers that there is a mystery far stranger than the paranormal in King’s life and there is a real-life bogeyman haunting him - the father he never knew. The doco reveals that the ghost hunter has little or no memory of his childhood so Lawrence and his subject commence a search to fill in the gaps in King’s past. Records show that he had suffered multiple physical traumas as a child and that the family moved frequently, so King and his siblings were in and out of a variety of schools. This mystery deepens when he is contacted by someone from his childhood, Cathy Quinlan, saying that not only does she remember him, she also has memories of his missing father. King is determined to discover the truth and a story unfolds that is even more gripping than the ghost hunts.
Ghosthunter is a ripping yarn that is enhanced by Hugh Miller’s moody lighting and cinematography and a suitably eerie score by Rafael May. Both add to the atmosphere of this multi-layered tale that successfully exposes the demons that had remained in hiding for most of King’s life. These ghosts from his past had obviously had a profound effect not just on him, but on his relationships with those who were, and are, close to him. In bringing the demons out into the open, Lawrence took on a lot of responsibility acknowledging that there were legal, practical and emotional issues that needed to be carefully considered. The first-time filmmaker explains, “This film explores how our identities are forged from a very young age, and how our ability to forget protects us while we construct our lives. And while we survive by this ability to forget, our compulsion to remember and our desire to know the truth, creates an irreconcilable war that plays out deep within our hearts.” Ghosthunter will keep you enthralled as you go on this strange, sad but revelatory journey that is an honest and deeply intense portrait of a man seeking answers to haunting questions. Ultimately, though, there’s an uplifting message in the heart of the film, that the truth will set you free.