Sometime in 1995 Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s fevered brains conspired to create a five minute animated short entitled, Jesus versus Santa which went on to become the genesis point for the Southpark animated series which has become nothing short of a global phenomenon. Sometime in 2010, Michael Plumides was watching marathon episodes of Ghost Adventures when his fevered brain focused on a moment of satori; an idea for a show lampooning ghost hunters (and reality shows in general) entitled, Ghost Trek.
As you may know, Plumides is infamous for going to jail with Oderus Urungus from the shock rock group, GWAR, for the legendary North Carolina obscenity bust of 1990, when Charlotte-Mecklenburg vice squad raided his club during the cartoonish thrash metal performance. If you don’t know that – then read enough about Ghost Trek and you’ll quickly learn that experience haunts Plumides. But the experience is significant in regards to Ghost Trek because it shows the “Do-it-yourself” rock-n-roll spirit possessing Plumides that imbues this irreverent product from beginning to end.
Plumides pounded out a script and assembled a cast from a formidable list of reality TV celebs such as Jonny Fairplay (Survivor) and Gia Allemand (The Bachelor), as well as pro-wrestlers Disco Inferno (WCW, TNA) and Colt Cababa (WWE) and had the foresight to include a young Addy Miller soon to become the iconic “Little Zombie Girl” of the worldwide phenomenon of The Walking Dead. With that the global phenomenon of Ghost Trek was born. Well, not exactly.
Ghost Trek hasn’t become a global phenomenon in the way that Southpark or The Walking Dead has – but it deserves to become one. In December of 2010, Plumides and his fellow producers Robert W. Filion, Bill Walker, Justin Kates, and Anne Saunders gathered their cast and crew and with very little money or resources – but a ton of creativity – shot the pilot episode, Ghost Trek: The Kinsey Report in a matter of days.
It is worth noting, one young P.A. named J.T. McRoberts – yours truly – was on that crew, and was quickly promoted to script supervisor by virtue of being the only P.A. that brought a copy of the script to set. The creation of that first episode was chaotic to say the least but what came out the other side was smart, funny, hip and loaded with bad taste. In other words – it was exactly the kind of show that I enjoyed – regardless of my involvement. The Kinsey Report went on to tour the South-Eastern coast and quickly garnered accolades and a following including an award for “Best Comedy” at the Fright Night Film Fest 2011, and Plumides signing a short-lived development deal with ThinkFactory Media (Hatfields and McCoys), and not to lose momentum, then releasing the award-winning pilot on Dread Central for Halloween in 2012.
Fast forward to 2013 – Plumides and crew decided to get the band back together for another round of Ghost Trek. Plumides had a vision which leads up to, and included, a feature film, Ghost Trek: Confederate Ghouls – go here to support the feature film effort at Amazon Studios http://studios.amazon.com/projects/25897 currently #2 in the “Horror” category and #4 in “Comedy”, poised for the “Development Slate”. The pilot episode was merely a scratch on that surface.
That brings us to the second episode – Ghost Trek Goomba Body Snatchers Morturary Lockdown (and Panel Show)! The Paranormal Underworld Detective Society (PUDS) are back for another pop culture assault delivered through the ghost hunting lens of Ghost Trek with the tender grace of a warm enema. Goomba Body Snatchers tells the story of the team’s assignment to investigate the haunted Gambini and Sons Mortuary after a visit to the local college in Queens, NY where Dr. Zeke Wallace, played stoically by Michael Melendez (Lot 66) along with Scary Carrie played by Christy Johnson (Tobe Hooper’s Mortuary) and intern, Jules Partridge, played with verve by Julia Bullock (X-Factor), appear as guests on Rick Wiener’s panel show (played by Tim Ross) where Zeke is confronted publicly about his private relationship issues with co-producer Shawna Liebowitz (Allemand) as chronicled in the pilot episode. From there we visit episode one favorite, Guy Swisher, hilariously played by Brett Gentile (Seeking Justice, Cold Storage) live via satellite from the set of his new show Psychic Brats.
Afterward, Zeke and Jules are shuttled to Gambini and Sons to discover the secrets of the haunted mortuary. But unbeknownst to Dr. Zeke, all of his crew is not quite in the right ghost hunting frame of mind. Hilarity ensues. Ghosts make appearances and the Ghost Trek crew carries on to their next case.
The devil is in the details and creator Plumides, along with co-producer, Chris Pittman, fills his scripts with enough pop culture stings, sight gags and details to choke the devil. It has everything from jabs at pop culture icons to drug humor – but it’s not all dick and fart jokes. Much like another cult favorite Arrested Development, each episode of Ghost Trek is layered with information including, but not limited to, fully realized news articles and magazine blurbs which add meaning and context to many of the jokes in the show. Attentive viewers are rewarded and repeat viewings should continue to add to the laughs as visual jokes and subtext is uncovered.
The show is supported by a driving alternative rock soundtrack which should be a given, considering Plumides’ past connections with the music industry and his access to great indie bands. The direction is unpretentious for the most part and follows the MTV-style of reality television with quick cuts and a constantly moving camera.
All in all Ghost Trek is an accomplishment for an independent production and should be heralded as such. It overcomes budgetary and production difficulties with a sharp script that fills the show with enough in-jokes and gags to continually reward viewers on repeat viewings. There are recurring gags such as the jealousy between Scary Carrie and Jules, Weasel’s kleptomania and the unspoken “bromance” between Joey Mayhem and Barry “The Bomb”. I know that Plumides had hopes for the show to find its way to television but I think it’s much more suited to an internet audience and the rising new media such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. Its breakneck cutting, mixed media presentation, and endless info-dump create the perfect storm for the “I want it now!” generation who demand their instant pop-culture fix, and Goomba Body Snatchers delivers in an assault of well-crafted anarchy for late night stoners and fan boys alike.
Ghost Trek: Goomba Body Snatchers Morturary Lockdown screens next at the Gwinnett Center International Film Festival, on Saturday, July 27th at 7 PM. http://www.gwinnettcenter.com/International-Film-Festival.intlfilmfest.0.html
Ghost Trek The Kinsey Report Trailer
Ghost Trek Goomba Body Snatchers Mortuary Lockdown Trailer
Psychic Brats with Guy Swisher Featurette