Set in the not-too-distant future, 'Ghost Machine' follows a small group of U.S. military computer techs who quietly acquire a top-secret combat training virtual reality simulator for a weekend of ultra-high-tech video gaming. However, upon installing this state-of-the-art equipment into the creepy grounds of an abandoned and derelict prison (that we quickly learn was supposedly used to torture post 9/11 prisoners) a virus seems to have infiltrated the software, uploading itself into the programming and corrupting the gaming.
During the first experimental game, another presence is detected within the A.I. software, an unknown player whose interaction with the soldiers' game causes tragic consequences. Something is stalking the gamers in their virtual reality gun-fighting world. A presence whose actions transcend the limits of a digitally created game. The soldiers must fight for their lives in the ghost machine...
This straight to DVD movie, begins with an early display of the horror/sci-fi action to come; throwing in a short display of CGI heavy violence, showing the viewer the utterly realistic capabilities of the combat training simulator that the plot is solely based upon.
With this early eye-candy action aiming to suitably whet the viewers appetitie (cough cough...alas, not by a long shot my friend), the pace quickly slams on the breaks, instead laying down the principles of the storyline in what can only be described as a tedious and entirely monotonous fashion. At this time, you can only guess that some suspense was supposed to be forming around the young marines actions, whilst thickening out their characterisation and creating a current of underlying tension for the movie to build upon. However, the film falls pitifully short in each one of these aspects, instead merely pacing around the details of the films basic concept, whilst trawling through an endless sludge of unimportant dialogue from a band of uninspired characters.
The characters themselves are as believable as the second-rate CGI that the entire film decides to rely so very heavily on. A clichéd and uninspired script is hard enough for the cast to work from, let alone what must have been a `one-take-will-do' decision to the acting. The end result leaves the viewer continuously rolling their eyes until their optical nerves are eventually stretched out of all recognition.
To add insult to injury, the film's creators have decided to jump on to the already well and truly over-saturated horror bandwagon with the inclusion of a Hideo Nakata style uber-violent 'ghost' that haunts our hapless mob.
The action is as gory as budget CGI can allow. However mildly entertaining the gun fights are against the A.I. militia and our 'oh-so-scary ghost-girl', you can't help but feel utterly disconnected from the action portrayed in the film by the over-reliance on a barrage of pretty shoddy CGI effects. So much so that every drop of blood appears to be added to the picture digitally. And don't go giving us this "it's supposed to be set within a virtual reality world" nonsense! The creators clearly wanted us to feel shocked and absorbed with the action and bloodspill.
When will so many of these low-budget film creators learn that realism flies out of the window as soon as the principal characters turn up looking like members of the Hollyoaks cast? You can almost tell how long someone is going to survive by the whiteness of their teeth and the depth of the dimples in their cheeks.
Unfortunately, the storyline plummets further and further into an abyss of boredom, which lets be honest, is a cardinal sin for such a horror/sci-fi/action movie. Scare factor remains at zero throughout this pulse-slowing slice of a horror charade. The only saving grace is the somewhat chaotic action scenes that from time-to-time actually draw the viewer's now roving eyes back towards the screen.
If you can tolerate poorly executed films for the sake of a well thought out storyline, then I'm afraid your efforts will go unrewarded, due to the lack of any development on the films original concept. The idea was thought up, the logistics and premise were decided upon, and then the rest of the film's storyline was just left to burn itself out. Cue credits...
Thankfully no one will ever ask me to sit through the film's 88 drawn-out minutes again. The DVD also includes a 'making of' feature and an interview with the film's writer Sven Hughes - both of which, for some reason, I decided to give a miss. Funny that!