Teenage Ghost Punk, the second feature-length from producer, actor, writer and writer Mike Cramer, isn’t a traditional ghost tale. Somewhat reminiscent of Casper (1995), albeit with a suburban setting and spectres that look like ordinary people, the story revolves around teenage girl, Amanda (Grace Madigan), who relocates to a new town with her widowed mother (Adria Dawn) and finds friendship and eventual romance with the resident spook, Brian (Jack Cramer). The haunter is also an ‘80s punk rock kid with a fondness for bands like The Clash and The Ramones who spends his days playing poker with other spirits from the neighborhood as the world moves on without knowing they exist. But at night he has long conversations with Amanda about history, music and life. Meanwhile, a group of paranormal investigators who go by the name of S.P.I.T. (Super Paranormal Investigation Team) are on a quest to rid the neighborhood of its ghostly dwellers, even though they pose no harm to the living.
Teenage Ghost Punk isn’t a film that takes itself seriously for a single second, though for the entirety of its running time it might provide a snapshot of being 17 again for some viewers. The central budding romance is innocent and heart-warming, and while it doesn’t dig deep enough to explore the complexities of relationships, that doesn’t stop it from being utterly charming. This is due to the performances from our main protagonists who make for a very likeable pairing. Cramer’s script gives them some endearing material to work with — which goes for all the cast, especially Noah Kitsos as Adam, who steals every scene spouting the type of well-spoken and inventive dialogue Shakespeare would have been proud of.
Interestingly, it’s Adria Dawn’s performance as Amanda’s mother that stands out the most, and provides an undercurrent of sorrow to proceedings. In addition to grieving the loss of her late husband, it is revealed that she mourns more for the boy that got away in high school. And the inability to move on is thematically intrinsic to Teenage Ghost Punk: Brian lingers among mortals as he isn’t ready to enter the afterlife; Amanda doesn’t want to accept that her relationship with her ghost boyfriend won’t work out because she’ll grow up and he’ll remain 17 forever; and her mother hasn’t been able to let go of her youth and the idea of true love she formed back then. Teenage Ghost Punk is mostly fluff, but permeating throughout it are enough moments of yearning to give it some emotional depth. If you’ve been young and in love, this theme might resonate ever so slightly.
To sweeten things, the film informs its intended teenage demographic of the joy and power of classic punk rock. Granted, it’s not Rock n’ Roll High School (1979) when it comes to celebrating the genre, but in an era of Taylor Swift dominating the airwaves (and that is no knock on her music as it’s amazing), it’s refreshing to see young people discuss London Calling (1979). If this movie even makes one adolescent discover punk rock, it’ll have accomplished something beautiful. However, to add to the charms, the soundtrack contains some tracks performed by Jack Cramer and his friends under the name of The Raging Specters. It’s difficult not to love a film this sweet that brings its own punk rock to the table as well as commend the past greats.
Overall, Teenage Ghost Punk offers enough goofy laughs and moments of genuine heart to make it well worth a viewing, especially when in need of some wholesome family-friendly entertainment. It’s the type of movie current budding genuine enthusiasts will look back at in 10 years and remember fondly. And hopefully, during those moments, they’ll be rocking a Ramones t-shirt and flicking through an extensive vinyl collection. Until then, may it be a comfort film as they embark on those awkward coming-of-age years.