Teenage Ghost Punk

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Teenage Ghost Punk Movie Poster Image
Amateurish, low-budget ghost tale; some smoking.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 93 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Ghosts exist and some young people can see them. On Halloween others can see them, too. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Carol is a self-absorbed mom who lives in the past, pining for the teenage camp counselor she knew for one summer 30 years before. Both of her children, Amanda and Adam, are extremely bright and articulate. Students offer interesting insights into the work of Shakespeare. 

Violence

A ghost plays tricks on the new inhabitants of "his" house, making scary noises and vandalizing the place. When the new family doesn't leave, he befriends them. A guitar-strumming punk rocker died in 1986 at age 17, hit by lightning while playing his guitar in the rain.  

Sex

For comic effect, a clueless jerk stupidly comes on to women at Carol's office. A boss reminds him of his harassment training. A ghost kisses a medium behind his cape.

 

Language

"Crap," "shut up," "bs," and "hell."

 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Marijuana is mentioned when an old tobacco pipe is found. Adults drink alcohol. A ghost smokes cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Teenage Ghost Punk is a 2014 title, being released now in straight-to-DVD form, that combines a tale of privileged adolescent angst and a houseful of ghosts. 17-year-old Amanda struggles to recover from the loss of friends when her divorced mom's new job takes the family from Michigan to Illinois. As she pines for her old boyfriend and tries to fit in at a new high school, the punk rocker ghost haunting their three-story house reveals himself and becomes her new boyfriend, not knowing that, back in the 1980s, he had been friends with Amanda's mother. For comic effect, a clueless jerk stupidly comes on to women at Carol's office. A ghost kisses a medium behind his cape. A teenager smokes cigarettes. Marijuana is mentioned. Adults drink alcohol. Although a ghost story is by nature about death, this movie does its best to sidestep any real confrontation with that fact. Language includes "crap," "shut up," "bs," and "hell."
 

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What's the story?

In TEENAGE GHOST PUNK, 17-year-old Amanda (Grace Madigan) is forced to leave her friends and position as cheerleader at her Michigan high school to move with her younger brother, Adam (Noah Kitsis), and mom, Carol (Adria Dawn), to a Chicago suburb. Her discomfort at the new school is interrupted when she discovers that their Victorian house is haunted by Brian (Jack Cramer), a poker-playing, guitar-strumming punk rocker who died in 1986 at age 17, hit by lightning while playing his guitar in the rain. A ghost-busting team and a medium fail to find Jack or the other spirits on the block but soon Brian and Amanda chastely become a couple. Wanting to show Brian and his ghost friends a good time, Amanda invites everyone to her house for Halloween, without telling her mother. The ghosts, visible to living humans only on Halloween night, have a nice time, but Mom comes home and angrily breaks up the party. Mom discovers that Brian is the boy she admired when she was a teenager 30 years before and this leads her to announce her many regrets. Eventually, the ghosts find their way to what the movie suggests is "heaven," suggesting that Amanda and her family must also move on. 

Is it any good?

If it were revealed that this was some family's painstakingly-made amateur home movie, much of its badness could be forgiven. Family does play a role here. Director-writer Mike Cramer portrays police chief McGarry and he's cast his son, Jack, in a lead role, as Brian, the chief haunter of Amanda's house. Cramer has a day job -- he's a lawyer -- and it's admirable that he likes to exercise his creative muscles on film, but his efforts, however joyful and well-intended, are unpolished at best. Although no cast member stands out for any particular acting talent, all the performers are certainly likable enough. Nice moments pop up here and there, showing the filmmakers' inclusiveness and all-around good hearts. The next-door neighbors, Steve and Stevie, are interracial husbands who bring good cheer and zucchini bread to Amanda and her family.

Given the general low quality of this enterprise, it hardly seems worth examining that character development is mostly absent from the script and that poor editing and story decisions create both incomprehensible and clunky moments. Rather than doing the hard work of organically illustrating who the characters are, Cramer uses Adam to awkwardly deliver the entire backstory of his mother and sister in a long monologue, breaking the critical "show-don't-tell" rule of storytelling in Teenage Ghost Punk's creaky opening minutes. The entire clan of ghost hunters wildly overact, as if their lines were funny enough to support their antics. And, at one point, Amanda scolds her mother for "making out" with Brian, but Brian and the mother aren't touching each other, never mind kissing, when Amanda sees them. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether ghosts like Brian in Teenage Ghost Punk exist. Do you think dead people come back and haunt the living? Why or why not?

  • Do you think that most people don't believe in ghosts but enjoy the good scares that ghost stories can provide? Why?

  • How does the quality of this movie compare with others you have liked? Do you think the script was well thought out? How could it be improved? Do you think the actors were convincing?

Movie details

For kids who love thrills

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