Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary first published by SciFiNow
“So you are the guys who imitate the Ghostbusters,” observes Conan (Digão Ribeiro) in Fabrício Bittar’s Brazilian Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary (Exterminadores do Além Contra a Loira do Banheiro), as he greets Caroline (Dani Calabresa), Fred (Léo Lins), Jack (Danilo Gentili) and Túlio (Murilo Couto) outside the Isaac Newton High School where he works as a security guard. It is true that this quartet have modelled themselves on the paranormal investigators from Ivan Reitman”s 1984 film. They have the van painted with its similar logo, the customised equipment for spirit suppression, the flair for showmanship, the uniforms – hell, they even call themselves the ‘Ghoulbusters’ (although they will later be rebranded the ‘Ghost Killers’ of the title, much as the name and backstory of their ghostly quarry will also keep changing).
Yet as these four investigate the haunting of the school by the ghostly child ‘Bloody Mary’ (Pietra Quintela), it becomes clear that they are more akin to the crews from Tony West’s Deadtectives (2018) and Jesse Thomas Cook and Matt Wiele’s The Hoard (2018): charlatans filming their faked grave encounters for the dwindling hits of an online viewership. Yet as they gradually realise what we have known since the opening sequence – that an angry female entity really has been summoned in the school toilets and is now playing possessive games of vengeance with anyone who crosses her path – our confederacy of larger-than-life dunces must work out how to rid the school’s corridors of this demonic spirit if they are to survive the night, let alone win the ultimate prize of their own syndicated TV show.
There is, though, a very different kind of influence that dominates Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary. For not only is it, with its film-within-a-film structure and its constant metacommentary on the way that people typically behave in horror, a comically postmodern take on the genre, but its use of a toilet as a key location and its infantile obsession with different bodily discharges (blood, piss, pus, farts, more blood, vomit, sperm, shit, even more blood) and transgressive acts (cannibalism, paedophilia, necrophilia) allies it to the Iberian ‘cinema of abjection’ which perhaps received its most extreme instantiation in Roberto San Sebastián’s The Night of the Virgin (2016).
Make no mistake: Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary is very puerile – and even prominently features an enthusiastic schoolboy (Matheus Ueta) and, yes, a possessed foetus among its ensemble of players. Yet there is also, amid all exploding heads and animated poohs, an underlying sophistication. For much as a bathroom mirror is the portal through which Bloody Mary (re)enters the high school building, the film too is endlessly reflexive, overtly mirroring other films (that are explicitly named) and commenting upon itself and its own forms. Even the minor players here are all too aware of their status as mere extras, and speculate openly as to what their likely fate would be if there were in a horror movie. Unluckily for them – but luckily for the viewer – they are.
© Anton Bitel