Ghostbustin’ 911 (Episodes 1-4) (2010)

Description (from iceparkcity.com):
Ghostbustin’ 911 is a Ghostbusters fan web-series, filmed in the style of COPS, with camera crews following the daily work of modern professional paranormal eliminators working for Ghostbusters franchise offices, which operate in all major cities. Season 1 follows the Twin Cities Ghostbusters, at the Minneapolis/St. Paul franchise office. This local crew of blue-collar employees encounter weird situations throughout a season of comedic half-hour episodes following their daily routines.

Major Cast:
Jason Skoby as Vincent Gehin, Cory Deveney as Tyler Martin, Ryan Hellion as Ron “Rico” Bailey, Kenny Juergens as C. “Strong” Armstrong, Brian Gruber as O’Brian, Will Duff as “Fresh Meat” Will Fergeson, Scarlet Salem as Becky Forrester, Chris Bordo as Chris, Shawn Hodroff as Shawn, Nick Carlberg as Drunken James Fillmore, Kallissa Brown as Attorney Sarah Charleston Esq., Nicole Kruex as Tech Inspector Veronica Tully

Special Features:
None (Online Web Series)

Written by Ryan Hellion
Directed by Jason Skoby

I became aware of GHOSTBUSTIN’ 911 when I was contacted to do a review by a fan of the series.  It sounded like it would be interested, and like pretty much everyone else who grew up in the 80’s, I was a fan of GHOSBUSTERS, so I decided to try my first review of a webseries.  I received a DVD of episodes 1-4 of the series, so that’s what we’ll be talking about today.  GB911 starts off as an episode of COPS, but when the cops get to a haunted location, they have to call in the Twin Cities Ghostbusters.  Apparently the producers of COPS saw an opportunity for a show they can make some money on, so therefore begins GB911, a new COPS-like show, but now following the franchise paranormal investigative team.  The series is shot as a mockumentary, and I wonder how much of it is scripted and how much is ad-libbed.  Obviously the storylines and plot are fleshed out, but the show its self has a very loose feel, like what you would get when it is just made up on the fly.

Some of the nice equipment created for GB911
Some of the nice equipment created for GB911

Mockumentaries come in two basic versions: scripted and ad-libbed.  Ad-libbed has the much more natural, much more realistic feel to it, so it is the more common way to do a mockumentary, but it also is harder to do.  With a script, you know what is going to happen, you know what is going to be said, and you know exactly how the story is going to progress.  With an ad-libbed script you have an idea of what is going to happen, you have an idea of what is going to be said, and you hope you know how the story is going to progress.  For the sake of the mockumentary, the ad-libbed version usually makes a stronger film, as long as you have the cast with the acting talent to pull it off; otherwise the scripted version is a much better bet.  I got the feeling that GB911 was an ad-libbed film, which kept it feeling looser and more realistic, but unfortunately also had some disadvantages with the casting.

Don’t get me wrong: I know how hard it is to get an awesome cast when you make a movie (or series) for no money.  It’s tough.  Super tough.  And I applaud anyone willing to try to make a mockumentary, because they are a lot harder to make than you’d think.  So right from the get-go, I give GB911 and Skoby a lot of credit for what they are attempting to do.  I did feel though that a lot of the cast were not really up to the ad-lib level of acting prowess, and therefore did pull a lot of the series down.  Would it be better if it were scripted?  I don’t know.  Hell, it could be scripted; I’m just assuming it isn’t from the feeling I get from it.  But having that fleshed out script is going to help a lot with lesser actors.  Not all of the acting in GB911 was bad, not by a long shot.  Skoby himself as Vincent holds his weight, as well as Deveney, Brown, Kreux, and Juergens whom I especially liked as Strong.  By a long shot though was Salem as Rebecca; she really was the shining star of the acting side.  On the other end of the spectrum were actors that just couldn’t keep from smiling, or peeking at the camera (when their characters wouldn’t be – I know with a mockumentary it’s ok to look at the camera, but there needs to be a reason to), or just didn’t seem to be as quick on their feet or as witty in the dialogue department as others.

The new Ghostbuster, Rebecca, shows the guys how to really work the suit.
The new Ghostbuster, Rebecca, shows the guys how to really work the suit.

Plot-wise, the series got better as it went along.  I enjoyed the first episode ok, the second was mostly forgettable, but by the third it was getting smoother and the final episode I watched was the best of the bunch (which again had a lot to do with Salem’s character).  It has some funny bits with technology gone wrong, with inept workers (loved the drinking of the freshly exorcised demon), and with the headaches these untrained, uneducated men that have reactors strapped to their backs cause for their legal and safety departments.  The antics range from slight visual mischief you have to pay attention for, to outright on-screen telling of jokes (some good some bad), and overall I found the series anywhere from slightly amusing to really damned funny.  I thought with episode one that the “commercials” were a nice touch, as they almost lent a bit of a sketch-comedy aspect to bits of the show, but unfortunately they dwindled in amusement and just became seeming time-filler later on.

The shining star of GB911 was, by far, the production design.  For a series that is funded by “the meager contributions of the show’s producers” and including “props [that] are home built,” the production is pretty damned amazing.  They have built a very believable set of proton packs, ghost traps, reactor cores, and even an update of Ecto-1, which looks awesome.  I was incredibly impressed with how much time, effort, and attention to detail went into the production design for GB911.  It looks really damned good, almost to a fault, because the high quality of the props and costumes and locations makes the rest of the series look a bit more amateur by comparison: the video quality was not great (though it was shot relatively true to the COPS-style, which added authenticity to the feel of the mockumentary), and the audio ranged from decent to bad, so the outstanding production design really made these lesser aspects more noticeable.

One of the many ghosts I would have been more scared of had I not actually seen it.
One of the many ghosts I would have been more scared of had I not actually seen it.

On the other hand, the most atrocious aspect of GB911 was the visual effects.  Some were ok, simple After Effects additions for the proton stream or electric sparks; these were noticeably cheesy but not necessarily bad.  However, some of the other effects – most importantly the majority of the ghosts – were so bad that they went from bad to funny-bad and back around back to just plain bad again.  I do understand that GB911 is made for no money, and I know you take what you can get.  If you read my blog a lot, you would know that one of the things I think will make or break a microbudgeted film is knowing your limits.  You’ve got to know what you can do within the limit of your resources, and if you can’t do something you’ve got to make the decision to omit it.  I think GB911 would be a lot strong if more time/money were put into the visual effects instead of so much into the physical props, or if it were shot to obscure most of the ghost action rather than showing it right on screen in all of its anti-glory.  I am looking forward to eventually reviewing the next four episodes, and I am hoping that this is an aspect of the series that the filmmakers have upgraded!

Ernie MF'n Hudson!
Ernie MF’n Hudson!

Overall, GB911 was a fun mockumentary that is more hits than misses.  It could use some better actors in some roles, it could seriously use an upgrade on the visual effects, but as a series that is made for no money, it is very ambitious and does live up to a lot of the goals I had set for it as a viewer.  It is a great tribute to the legacy of the GHOSTBUSTERS films (and you have GOT TO LOVE that they got Ernie Hudson in a cameo), and a fun series to watch.  I really am impressed with what the filmmakers have accomplished, which is especially tough since they are playing in an already established world and have to make GB911 look like it could be a part of that world, which they did beautifully.  I really look forward to watching the next four episodes; if the increase in quality and comedy from episode one to episode four is any indication, I expect the series to just keep getting better and better.

Overall 6 / 10

GB911 is not on the IMDb

GB911is not for sale, but you can watch it online: http://www.youtube.com/user/Iceparkcity

GB911site: http://www.iceparkcity.com/default.htm

Ghostbustin' 911 (2010)
Ghostbustin’ 911 (2010)
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