(Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Release date: Dec. 22

Starring: Sean Faris, Rachael Taylor, Luke Ford

Director: Chris Hartwill

Writers: Sven Hughes and Malachi Smyth

Briefly: A group of young soldiers and techies involved in the development of a virtual reality combat simulator get together for a weekend of partying and high-tech gaming, only to find themselves hunted by the ghost of a political prisoner tortured to death during the facility’s former existence as a de facto Gitmo.

The verdict: More sci-fi than horror, Ghost Machine employs contemporary genre tropes – a group of partiers are hunted by a malevolent force (Friday the 13th); characters enter a virtual world where death online means death in real life (The Matrix) – to create a surprisingly entertaining film which, while hardly original, is more than the sum of its influences.

The idea that the mysterious woman hunting the soldiers was in life a political prisoner detained during the Iraq war and deployed to a British prison makes it one of the first post-9/11 horror films to acknowledge the war directly, as opposed to, say, Hostel’s veiled (hooded?) nods. The ‘prison as haunted house’ idea is perfectly natural as well.

Director Chris Hartwill’s young cast is mostly effective, with American Sean Faris eerily channelling (and looking like) a young Tom Cruise. His effects team also manages to make the most of its obviously low budget to create GCI effects which enhance the drama instead of distracting from it.

Perhaps best suited to gamers with a yen for horror, Ghost Machine proves that computer-generated horror doesn’t have to come from calls to tech support.

Rating: 6/10

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