Haunted Ulster Live is a fun comedy-horror that rises above its low-budget roots and delivers a few good laughs – as well as some well-placed scares. Dominic O’Neill’s film sees seasoned host Gerry Burns (Mark Claney) team with children’s presenter Michelle Kelly (Aimee Richardson) for a live TV broadcast on Halloween night, 1998.
A comedy of errors, Haunted Ulster Live uses the famed UK mockumentary Ghostwatch as a stepping-off point. Gerry and Michelle’s live show is taking place in a supposedly haunted house and the broadcast is interrupted by things that go bump in the night – as well as the myriad of errors that can take place during any live TV recording. Yes, there are similarities with Ghostwatch, but Haunted Ulster Live is its own thing as a piece of well-honed entertainment. The laughs are well earned and the horror delivers some heft – especially the final moments which reminded me of the John Carpenter classic, Prince Of Darkness, as well as Prano Bailey-Bond’s Censor.
Movies In Focus readers will know that I’m not a huge fan of the found-footage aesthetic, but O’Neill manages to make it work. That’s down to the fact that events are supposed to be taking place during a live broadcast, and also because it’s filmed in a way where you can see what’s going on! It’s the little things.
Where Haunted Ulster Live really worked for me was in how it poked fun at Northern Irish TV in the 1990s. Ulster Live is a thinly veiled UTV and the film manages to capture the channel’s tone – right down to some of the adverts from the era. I also like the fact that Mark Claney’s Gerry Burns appears to be based on the late, great Northern Irish broadcaster, Gerry Anderson. Haunted Ulster Live makes sure that those who are missing Derry Girls will be able to get their fix of ironic ’90s Ulster humour.
An entertaining retro riff, Haunted Ulster Live works on many levels and offers plenty of laughs, as well as an ending which has a surprising amount of heft – and that makes it well worth seeking out!