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At Monday night’s T.G.I.M., a stand-up comedy act broke out


eric04On Monday night, area cineastes came to the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center for a screening of three films that are being considered for inclusion in next March’s Fort Myers Film Festival and a stand-up comedy act broke out.

The culprit was a 12-minute short titled Ghost App, which features a young woman settling in for the night to watch some TV when she gets a text asking if she believes in ghosts. “Who is this?” she replies, prompting the sender to repeat his question. “Who is this???” she asks again. This time she receives a davis-08text containing the ghost app. “I’m not downloading that,” she responds, but she does download the app after the sheet she is laying under is ripped off by unseen hands and the picture on her television is replaced by snow. The ghost is a little girl who unleashes her dog on the poor girl, who rushes to the sink to wipe the blood from her hands that’s only visible through her phone. After several encounters, each more horrifying than the previous one, she cowers on the steps rising from the foyer before she is gobbled up by the app and trapped inside her phone.

davis-04Celebrity judge Stephanie Davis copped to being anxious and so scared during the film that she watched it through the hand fan she’d brought along for the night. But she was also concerned about angering the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center’s resident ghost. “You guys know this building’s haunted, right?” she asked the audience. “The whole building has to be empty and you have to go downstairs, but if you do, you will feel it, see it. When there’s activity up here, he hides in the corner, and he’s totally laughing right now.” (According to Stephanie, the ghost’s origins trace back to the 30-year period during which the jason-comments-15Whitehurst Building functioned as a federal courthouse and periodically kept prisoners in a holding cell before and after criminal trials and other court appearances. However, there is no record of any inmates dying while in custody there. Moreover, the holding cells were on the first floor and not in the basement. Hmmm.)

But on a serious note (lol), the ending of Ghost App reminded Stephanie a little of snapchat, in which a green frog animal snapchat lens morphs jason-comments-09your face to look like a frog while adding a frog color green mask and hat.

The app did not remind celebrity judge Jason Parrish of anything. Rather, it left the actor and Florida Rep Associate Director with a lot of questions. “I felt as though we were in for a ride with the intense text subtitles that started us off,” Jason said dryly, prompting a round of guffaws and titters. But, alas, we’re never told by the filmmakers who it was that sent the girl in the panties the ghost app, prompting Parrish to ask a deeper and more probing question, “If you’re going eric-02to choose a lead actress, why do you pick one with braces or an Invisalign? Was it a conscious choice or did the actress just show up on the day of filming wearing her Invisalign and the filmmaker said, ‘Yeah, let’s just go with that.’”

That prompted host Eric Raddatz to accuse Parrish of being a bracist. “So she had braces?” Raddatz said, astonished that the Florida Rep actor would single out the Ghost App actress because of the dental appliance she had to wear through no fault of her own. “Lots of people have braces, so why bring it up the way that you did?”

scoular-opines-08Clearly taken aback by the institutional bracism remark, Jason remarked that he just needed to know why she had an overbite, that’s all. It was a character choice and, as such, it was fair game for comment – at least to Parrish’s way of thinking.

“And as for my technology questions,” Jason continued, now clearly agitated, “did the app bring the ghost or did the ghost exist already and the app just shows her to you? Was she going to have an awful night anyway? That’s what I wondered? Does it affect your data charges? Is it like Pokeman Go? I don’t know,” Jason confessed, as the scoular-opines-09audience began to roll in the aisles.

So unlike Stephanie Davis, Jason wasn’t scared. He was merely perplexed.

John Scoular was disturbed by holes in the storyline. Scoular is the award winning filmmaker, director, producer, cinematographer and screenwriter who lensed last year’s Best Local Film, Marcus Jansen: Examine & Report. He scoular-opines-11knows a thing or two about crafting a believable storyline.

“This is what I do whenever I have an intruder in the house,” he mocked, walking around holding his phone in front of him like the girl had done in the film. “Look, I see one of those monster palmetto bugs on the floor and I’m the man of the house, I have four kids, but like I’m out in the street. I’m audience-participation-01not standing there trying to get the thing in the viewfinder of my cell phone. And if it gets on me, I’m not looking through an app on my phone trying to see if it bit me …..”

When the laughter momentarily subsided, John explained one of the limitations the filmmakers had to compensate for. “She couldn’t open the door and go outside because it’s daytime. The blinds have daylight coming through them. But audience-participation-02they could have had her run to the door and find it wouldn’t open before having her download the ghost app. If they’d done that then perhaps the audience could have stayed with them a little longer rather than being distracted [by the girl’s reaction not making sense].”

Even so, John did acknowledge that he could see Hollywood buying Ghost App and it becoming like audience-participation-03Destination 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. “Once every 10 years, a no-money horror picture goes viral like Blair Witch Project.”

“So who knows,” he added before breaking into an a’ cappella version of Bart Howard’s 1954 classic, Fly Me to the Moon.

But beneath all the raucous laughter prompted by audience-participation-05Parrish, Scoular and even Eric Raddatz was a psychological truth. Ghost App had actually scared the hell out of the T.G.I.M. crowd on Monday night! One way you can tell if people find a film truly harrowing is if they laugh during or after the film is over. It’s a phenomenon known as fearful laughter and there are a number of theories to explain why we laugh after being scared to death. It might be because we’re responding to the eric-amy-and-the-judges-02incongruity of the situation as much as the “danger” it represents. We might also be trying to prove to ourselves and everyone around us that we’re really not scared—that everything is okay. Or, maybe, we’re just straining for emotional balance by countering our fear with a few chuckles. “When we are at risk of being overwhelmed by our emotions—either positive or negative—expressing the opposite emotion can have a dampening effect eric-al-and-the-judges-03and restore emotional balance,” notes Science reporter Wray Herbert in The Association for Psychological Science.

So while Ghost App may be a flawed film, it was clear from the reaction of the judges and T.G.I.M. audience that it accomplished its primary goal. Ghost App scared the hell out of us all –leaving just one question unanswered. Do you believe in scoular-opines-06ghosts?????

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