GHOSTHUNTER.  Australia, 2018. Directed by Ben Lawrence. 96 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes and coarse language)

This is not quite the documentary that might have been imagined from the title.

In fact, there is an introduction to Jason King, a Sydney man in his 40s, who has set himself up to hunt ghosts, fielding applications to visit homes, sensing a strange presence, even hostile presence, and ridding the house of it. Clients are grateful. Jason is proud of his work, the title appearing on his T-shirt as well as on the side of his car.

But, this is something like a McGuffin in an Alfred Hitchcock movie – a focus of attention while the real story is elsewhere. Or, perhaps, not exactly like a McGuffin but a metaphor for what the film is really doing.

British-born director, Ben Lawrence, saw an advertisement for the Ghosthunter and rang Jason. Jason agreed to an interview – and interviews continued for the next six years, from 2010 to 2016. There are also many interviews with Jason’s sister, friends from childhood days, social workers, a policewoman.

This is the kind of film where a reviewer needs to note Spoiler alert. As happened with this reviewer’s viewing of the film, knowing nothing, it proved to be an intriguing detective story, step-by-step unfolding a mystery. It is sharing Ben Lawrence’s quest through his interviews with Jason. It is sharing Jason’s discovery about himself and about his family, recovering memories, disturbing memories, even most disturbing memories.

In that sense, the film is a psychological case study. Ben Lawrence asks many questions, take steps on behalf of Jason to delve into his past. He also advises him, ultimately, to seek out counselling because, as some of the memories surface, as Jason revisits locations from the past, is involved with a childhood friend, a forthright woman called Cathy, an abusive past emerges. Jason has not always been direct with Ben Lawrence either, and has some of his own inner ghosts or demons to encounter.

What begins like a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at, even exposure, of the ghosthunter at work with his hand-picked team, soon becomes far more intriguing and well worth a visit.

Madman                                        Released 20th September

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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