Ghost Shout (2004)

If there’s something strange
in your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call?
GHOSTBUST…errr…Sotokoba Paranormal Investigations??

Renpei Tsukamoto’s Gosuto Shauto (Ghost Shout, 2004) takes the central premise of popular mainstream genre works like Ghostbusters (1984), The Sixth Sense (1999), and the Ghost Whisperer (2005-2010) and crafts something very familiar to fans of the paranormal with just the right amount of campy fun.

Yoko Sakaki (Saori Takizawa) is your average tough-as-nails woman. If you need something to get done she doesn’t waste time whining about it, she just rolls up her sleeves and jumps into the fray. Of course get to know her a little bit better and you most likely would do a spit-take. You see she’s a Ghost Negotiator. Part of an organization that can hardly pay its bills and whose employees consistently end up in the hospital due to Yoko’s zealous behavior. Yet after only a couple of minutes watching her work you realize what her boss and the people she works with already know…she’s good at her job, damn good.

The rub is, of course, that she hates what she does. It’s bad enough that she can see dead people but Yoko must also deal with the petty squabbles that the deceased have with the living. Her only lifeline to “reality” is her fiancé, Toshio, whose patient and understanding demeanor is a nice counterpoint to Yoko’s rough and unforgiving exterior. And, as befitting their sweet syrupy romance, Yoko dreams of working side by side with her prince charming in the cozy little tofu shop she dreams of one day running. Yet, as anyone who’s seen a fair number of romantic comedies can guess, there is far more to the story than that. You see, to accommodate what the other believes their partner wants, Yoko and Toshio construct alter egos for themselves, Yoko the globe trotting flight attendant and Toshio the honest manager of a rice cooker company. Yoko’s last day on the job, though brings all of these unspoken issues to a boil.

From that premise alone it should come as no surprise that Ghost Shout is more screwball comedy casino online than an X-Files-esque thriller. And although many of the film’s special effects are hokey it ultimately doesn”t matter. What Tsukamoto lacked in budget he more than makes up for in his attention to character development and storytelling. Working with the universal theme of love, Tsukamoto makes an intriguing connection between how a base emotion like love can bring people back from the dead. That ultimately lost love, be it the love a dead mother has for her grown child or an idealistic singer has for a homely looking ukulele player, haunts us and though we may eventually forget, those phantom pains can emerge without us even realizing what it is we are feeling and for whom we are feeling such strong passions for. These may not be so original ideas, but rarely has contemporary Hollywood pitched a romantic comedy with themes that adult or even entertaining.  Sticking to tried and true conventions like the masculine female protagonist who finally softens when she finds true love, lowbrow physical comedy reminiscent of a classic Warner Bros. cartoon, and a predictable meet-cute between Yoko and Yanagida (Ken Izawa), a man who not only shares Yoko”s affliction of being able to see the dead but also has a past connection to her, where they both seem to be totally mismatched for each other but ultimately we know will end up together before the end credits roll all go blissfully hand in hand to making this an enjoyable popcorn flick.