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We Have a Ghost 2023 movie

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Emily Tsiao

Movie Review

Kevin Presley hasn’t felt connected to his dad, Frank, in years. They used to be best buds. But as Kevin got older, he started to realize that Frank wasn’t quite the hero he used to believe.

Frank has moved the family around quite a bit, always chasing the next dream. Unfortunately, many of those dreams have turned into nightmares (the family lost a lot after falling victim to a pyramid scheme).

Kevin expects that Frank’s latest venture will turn out the same, that his mom will get hurt again and that the family will wind up moving … again.

But then something supernatural happens.

As it turns out, the reason the Presley’s new home was so cheap is because … it’s haunted.

All the previous tenants have fled. And since it’s not technically required to disclose ghosts in real estate listings, the Presleys are stuck with Ernest as their undead house guest.

But Ernest, despite his best efforts to frighten the family off, isn’t a mean ghost, just one who wants his privacy. So Kevin is determined to help him find closure and “cross over.”

Frank, however, sees Ernest as an opportunity. After posting videos of Ernest online, they go viral, and Frank starts negotiating deals with sponsors to earn a lot of money.

But his desire to keep Ernest around only hurts his son, who wants to do the right thing. Moreover, the videos alert the government to Ernest’s presence.

And it just so happens that the CIA has their own dastardly plans for the ghost.

Positive Elements

Kevin’s relationship with his parents—especially his dad—is strained. He often rolls his eyes and talks back to his dad, and Frank often responds in anger. Kevin says that he lost respect for his dad after watching his mom (and by extension, Kevin and his brother, as well) get hurt by Frank’s lies and broken promises.

Frank, for his part, knows that he’s let his family down and feels badly about it. The constant moving around from town to town, job to job is his attempt to figure out who he is so he can finally fulfill his true dream of being the best father he can be.

The father-son relationship starts to mend after Frank tells Kevin that he’s proud Kevin chose to help Ernest rather than exploit him. And he apologizes for taking advantage of the situation. The two of them reconcile further after Kevin witnesses Frank’s actions to save Ernest and their family from harm. He shows respect to his dad, knowing that Frank truly does love him and wants to protect him. Frank, in turn, learns to control his hot-headedness and works to provide a stable future for his family.

After realizing that Kevin wants to help him, Ernest does his best to help Kevin as well, silently encouraging Kevin to work things out with his dad.

Frank and his wife, Melanie, don’t always get along. They bicker about their children, their house and Frank’s career. But they also work through those arguments. And the fact that they have stuck together despite falling on hard times multiple times shows that they love and support each other through thick and thin.

Kevin’s older brother, Fulton, understandably chastises his younger brother when he’s rude to their parents. Elsewhere, Fulton is punished by having his phone taken away after his mom learns he made Kevin walk to school instead of driving him.

A family is reunited after many years apart.

Spiritual Elements

Ernest is a ghost, albeit a friendly one. But his mere presence brings up a lot of questions about the afterlife. Kevin and his family don’t delve too deeply into it. Kevin tries to help Ernest “move on,” but he also admits he doesn’t know to what.

Ernest’s supernatural powers allow him to move through solid objects, turn invisible and manipulate his appearance. (It also seems he has some telekinetic ability.) In different scenes, he causes lights to flicker and even makes candlelight become a fiery inferno. This, one scientist explains, is because ghosts aren’t made of matter, but energy, allowing them to control other forms of energy. His extremely cold temperature also causes rooms to go cold when he enters them.

Kevin learns online that most spectral entities have been “displaced by trauma.” Combined with Ernest’s memory loss—a self-defense mechanism against trauma—Kevin suspects that Ernest’s death was so disturbing that Ernest blocked out all memory of it and his life before.

The Presley family convinces a television medium to come to the house to film an episode of her show. (And the sequence that follows reveals her to be a fraud.) A woman justifies murder because she thought it was a sign from God.

Joy, Kevin’s neighbor who helps him and Ernest on their journey, says she’s an atheist and questions Ernest’s existence at first. A woman does yoga. A fan of Ernest’s camps outside the Presley home dressed as Jesus Christ. A frightened woman begins praying when she sees Ernest. There’s a reference to “paranormal psychology” being “woo-woo science.” A woman compares her career to a “sacrificial lamb.” We see a picture of a man in a devil costume. There are two honest exclamations of “Thank God!”

Sexual Content

When Ernest goes viral, people take to social media in droves. Many express that they have crushes on Ernest. One girl says she had a dream he impregnated her. Other people try to normalize “ghost love.” Someone compares Ernest to a stripper. (In an unrelated scene, a man claims to be haunted by a homosexual ghost.) Someone else speculates whether ghosts have genitals.

Kevin’s older brother, Fulton, is obsessed with looking good and hooking up. He swipes through pictures of girls on Tinder, often calling them “nasty” if he doesn’t like them. (And some of these pictures show girls in swimsuits in suggestive poses.) He lifts his shirt to take pictures of his abdominal muscles. And we see him relaxing by the pool during a video chat.

Joy enters a boys’ bathroom to speak to Kevin privately. A boy urinating says she can’t be in there, and she claims “gender norms” are stupid. Seconds later she makes a joking comment about having male genitals. (There’s no indication that Joy is transgender, she simply doesn’t agree with male/female identification standards.)

Kevin and Joy decide to share the one clean bed in a motel room. Joy jokingly asks Kevin not to “dry hump” her while they rest. During this exchange, the sensual pottery scene from the film Ghost awkwardly shows up while they’re flipping through TV channels. Ernest encourages Kevin to make a move. When they wake the next morning (above the covers, fully clothed), Kevin’s hand is draped on Joy’s waist, though there’s a good foot between their bodies.

Two teens share a kiss. They are interrupted by the boy’s parents who jokingly tell them to continue.

A woman asks if her husband and son are watching “dirty videos.” We hear that Frank used to peddle “male enhancement pills.” A woman flirts with Frank. We see a shirtless man getting a tattoo.

Violent Content

When a television medium refuses to believe that Ernest is real, the irate ghost terrorizes her crew, destroying parts of the Presley home in the process. He contorts his body, turning his head completely around and snapping multiple bones (you know, if he wasn’t a spectral being and actually had bones). Finally, he makes a corporeal, skinless arm pop out of his mouth like a tongue to choke the medium. This convinces her he’s real and she leaps out a glass window in fear (she’s OK since they’re on the first floor).

Kevin, Joy and Ernest flee the state, looking for answers to Ernest’s past. When two sheriffs find them, they treat Kevin and Joy like criminals, even though the official report stated they had been kidnapped. One officer tells Kevin to lay on the ground and to put his hands on his head. He then threatens Kevin, but before he can act, Ernest swipes his gun and points it at the man’s head. Ernest removes the gun’s bullets and hands it back to the officer. Meanwhile, the other sheriff threatens to shoot Kevin as he leaves the building. Joy saves him by kicking the man in the groin and then kicking his gun away from his hands.

A car chase ensues between the police and the kids. Ernest helps them by jumping into cop cars and causing them to crash. (In one instance, he takes the driver’s gun and shoots the engine.) Kevin drives through a busy intersection and gets clipped by a semi, but they are all OK. The officer pursuing him crashes headlong into the semi, but he is also OK, chasing after them on foot.

A woman enters an armory, taking out special guns that can incapacitate a ghost. The guns are then used on Ernest, causing him great pain. Later on, several humans are hit with the guns, which blasts them through the air. Federal agents break down the doors of several houses. The CIA says that they can do bad things to Ernest since he’s technically already dead.

We hear that a man fatally, though accidentally, shot himself in the face. Kevin says that his family got banned from a bowling alley after his dad got into a fistfight with someone there.

After a video shows Ernest running through a wall, many people on social media instigate the “Ernest Challenge,” which involves, as you might expect, people running into walls (and several people get hurt doing this). Fulton hits Kevin in the head with an orange (and Kevin is upset that their mom is more worried about the fruit than her son). A woman is bodily escorted from a building. Ernest jokingly pretends to shoot himself with a finger gun. A woman says she would rather swallow razor blades and chase them with lemon juice than give information to the feds.

We hear a woman died in childbirth. Someone speculates that a man may have killed himself (though he didn’t).

[Note: The rest of this section contains spoilers.] Flashbacks reveal that Ernest raised his daughter alone after the girl’s mother passed away. He was murdered because the girl’s maternal aunt wanted to take custody of her but wasn’t willing to go to court. We see the murder take place (blunt force trauma to the head), and the body is buried in the backyard of what would eventually become the Presleys’ home. The man who killed Ernest returns to the Presleys’ home because he believes Kevin knows the truth about the murder. Mayhem involving threats, blows to the head, gunfire and other violence transpires, concluding with someone falling to his death from a window.

Crude or Profane Language

We hear the s-word 40 times. There are also several uses each of “a–,” “a–hole,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “d–k” and “h—.” God’s name is abused 16 times (once paired with “d–n”). And Christ’s name is abused thrice. Someone uses the insult “butt munch.” A crude hand gesture is used.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Several inebriated women are rude to their rideshare driver while trying to get home. We see a drunken man in another scene. We hear someone mixed an anxiety medication with alcohol. There’s a joke about getting high. A woman worries she’ll lose her liquor license when two teens enter her bar to ask questions about Ernest.

We hear a man started drinking after the mother of his child died, as well as commentary on how drinking affected his life later on.

Other Negative Elements

Frank and Fulton exploit Ernest for their own gains (Frank for money and Fulton for popularity). When Kevin tries to tell them they should be helping Ernest move on, they shut him down, putting their own desires above Ernest’s needs.

When the government steps in to apprehend Ernest—who they’ve been told is dangerous—they admit they can’t get a warrant since a ghost doesn’t necessarily qualify as a terrorist. The Presley family’s Fourth Amendment rights are questioned. Later, they’re held captive and forced by CIA agents to lie on television, saying that Kevin was kidnapped by Ernest. Melanie bumps into an agent to distract him so she can swipe a cell phone to call her son. When she’s caught, she’s told that aiding and abetting a known fugitive is a crime.

Joy is often rude to her dad because she feels pressure from him to uphold an academic standard. (She states this is because he feels pressure to prove himself worthy as an Asian man living in America.) Kevin feels similar racial pressure from his own dad, who hates that Kevin prefers listening to music by Terry Kath (frontman and lead guitarist of the band Chicago), a white man, as opposed to Jimi Hendrix.

Joy covers up bathroom graffiti, ironically, by spray-painting over it. However, the real problem is what she was covering up. We learn that a bully wrote her phone number down (which spells out the word “poop”) to solicit racially charged text messages.

People lie (and Frank encourages his sons to lie to their mother about Ernest so she won’t “freak out”). A few cars are stolen. Ernest steals a motel room key while he, Kevin and Joy are on the run. Frank snatches Kevin’s phone away in frustration and then gives it back by tossing it on the floor. We hear someone got stuck in the Presleys’ chimney trying to enter their home without permission. Joy loudly disturbs students in a library on purpose.

There are a few jump scares. Early on, a family flees the house Ernest inhabits, shrieking in fear. Several others are frightened by Ernest (and a little girl screams in fear when she thinks he wants to kidnap her). Others, on the other hand, are obsessed with him and chase him, Kevin and Joy down the street when they spot him.

We hear about people “setting their farts on fire.” Kevin says a pharmaceutical didn’t work as intended and gave the consumers diarrhea instead. Three characters stay at a disgusting motel room for a night. (We see some gross stuff, hear crass comments and one person discovers a peep hole into another room behind a painting).

People online try to fight for Ernest’s rights. And while this might seem nice, it’s clear they’re only doing it to gain followers since Ernest isn’t in any danger or being held against his will. Someone online claims that the coronavirus isn’t real.

When the Presleys ask their real estate agent if something bad happened in the house, she’s quick to say no. And while this technically isn’t a lie (or at least, not an intentional one), she fails to tell them that the house is haunted. A mailbox is knocked over by vehicles several times from negligence.

We see a woman suffering from the effects of a stroke. Someone fibs that a father abandoned his child.

Conclusion

Man, oh man, am I glad that we don’t have a ghost. Mostly because of the spiritual implications of ghosts. It’s just not something I’m personally prepared to handle. Though to be honest, the filmmakers didn’t seem particularly prepped to handle it either.

Kevin wonders twice where ghosts go after they gain closure and “cross over.” But that’s all he does: momentarily speculating about the afterlife. And it’s ultimately left as an extremely open-ended question without God or heaven ever being part of the discussion (other than a fan of Ernest’s who dresses up like Jesus).

The film has some other problems Christian families might want to look out for, too, namely violence, foul language and sexual innuendo.

This isn’t a particularly graphic film. Sexual content is only hinted at, not displayed on screen. It’s actually more disturbing that most of the crass comments are coming from a teenager. And speaking of crassness, everyone is swearing up a storm. There are no f-bombs, but if I’d said the s-word as a kid as often as Kevin and his friends do, I’d have gotten grounded for life.

Now, there is a scene where Ernest goes all Conjuring on a television crew. It’s a little gross and disturbing. But it’s ultimately played for comedy since we know Ernest is friendly and purposely trying to freak them out.

However, the circumstances of Ernest’s death (eventually depicted on screen) are quite sad and violent. And there are some pretty violent action sequences that conclude the film. So viewers should watch out for those, too.

Ultimately, We Have a Ghost isn’t the worst film out there, especially since it actually has some sweet father-son moments and some nice stuff with Ernest. But families should consider whether they’re ready to navigate all the film’s problems before viewing.

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.