I wonder if the central figure in Ghosthunter manipulated the director to give the best possible account of himself? The man is Jason King, a security guard. He’s also a part-time ghost hunter, a service for which he only receives petrol money.
King had an onerous upbringing, in which abuse was commonplace. He comes across as a generally caring, sharing kind of guy. But he had another side … and that other side impacted people who trusted him.
What director Ben Lawrence recorded morphed over the time he got to know King and document his story. In 2010, Lawrence read an article about a bloke who had seen his dead brother’s ghost. That triggered a seven-year journey into the psyche of a ghost hunter who discovers that man’s enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself.
Ghosthunter explores how our identities are forged from a very young age and how our ability to forget protects us. Notwithstanding that, our compulsion to remember and to know the truth creates an irreconcilable war that plays out deeply in our hearts.
King – and a small band of followers – address people’s disquiet at seeing apparitions in haunted homes. Soon after they meet, King presents Lawrence with a stack of hospital records from his childhood. The documents chart a series of incidents from Jason’s youth that he can’t recall. Sensing there’s more to the story, Lawrence offers to help King in his decades-long search for the only person who may hold the key to King’s lost childhood – his father. What Lawrence uncovers and King finds out is dastardly.
Lawrence quite deliberately inserts himself into the story and changes the very face of it. Is this right or wrong? There’s no one answer to that. It depends upon your perspective. In this case, I was totally comfortable with it because the tale that unfolded was absorbing.
I did, however, have a number of concerns with Ghosthunter. Firstly, with so many names mentioned, it took me a while to work out who was who. Secondly, try as Lawrence did to get King’s mother involved, that didn’t happen; so we don’t get her take on things. Then, while King’s difficult upbringing is constantly referenced, Lawrence doesn’t set out exactly what happened to him. We’re left to make assumptions.
I thoroughly appreciated Lawrence’s fly-on-the-wall treatment of the material that was available though. He paints a picture of a deeply flawed individual whose parents have a lot to answer for; but so does he. Ghosthunter is one of the better documentaries I’ve seen that presents as a police cold case.
Director: Ben Lawrence
Release Date: 20 September 2018 (limited)
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television