The Gravedancers (2006) directed by Mike Mendez
Asks the all-important question: could the ghosts from Ghostbusters II be scary in a serious film? The answers is: no, not really. They are especially non-frightening the way they are shot in this film. Ghost movies -- serious ones, anyway -- need subtlety in order to work. On the rare occasions where you allow the audience a good look at the ghost, it can't be a brightly lit scene or have long enough shots to see the flaws in the latex mask. Having the hero characters get into a fist-fight with a ghost -- say, the ghost of a middle-aged piano teacher -- is gonna probably come off as silly, too. It might also be a mistake to make the main protagonist, and only survivor of the three people who were haunted, a douchebag. Caring about the characters goes a long way into making the situations they're in scary. A great example of how not to make a ghost film. (5/10)
Penny Dreadful (2006) directed by Richard Brandes
The premise isn't bad. A teenage girl is deathly afraid of being inside of cars after a horrific car accident when she was a child. She goes on her first major road trip with her therapist, yadda-yadda-yadda, she's trapped in the car with a psycho killer outside. The killer spends most of the movie coming up with ways to scare her. He plants the corpse of her therapist in the driver's seat, moves the windshield wipers when she's not looking, throws blood all over the windshield, etc. A local wanders by and she begs him for help; he's killed. It's a slasher movie with only two characters, essentially.
The movie lost me during the girl's escape attempt. The killer wedged the car into a stand of trees so that all of the doors and windows were blocked. Inspired by her late therapist, she finally gets up the courage to try to push the car out by putting it into neutral and pushing against a tree trunk with her foot. It starts to work when the killer, of course, pops up and grabs her foot. There's a crunch, she screams, pulls her leg back into the car and discovers her pinky toe has been cut off (complete with CGI-enhanced shot of the mutilated foot). It's kinda like if in Halloween, Michael Myers suddenly sliced off one of Laurie's fingers. The drastic change in tone -- from slasher to torture porn -- was hard to get beyond. Combined with the ending -- which litterally made me say "Boo!" outloud -- and I was quite disappointed with this one. (6/10)