Geological scientist from the George Washington Institute are in the small Californian town of Fartham studying earth movements. Suddenly flares begin to go off and fires start. The locals believe it is a ghost who is rampaging.
Back in Washington DC, at the Institute, Dr. Jonathan MacKensie(Trevor Eve) is giving a lecture on anthropology. His most important concern is whether he will get a grant to continue a research project. The Dean over his department, Dr. Juliana Moorhouse(Nina Foch) knows she can bully him. She tells him that Mackensie is the new head of a new department which investigates the unexplained and paranormal. She makes MacKensie a deal. If he looks into a couple of the cases she has chosen, she will give him the grant for his research project.
So MacKensie heads to Fartham. He witnesses the Fartham entity in action as it blows up cans of paint and burns symbols into the houses of the people on Briarwood street. In searching a cemetery he comes across the grave of Robert Pence. Pence is a local who had been delving to closely, according to the locals, into the occult. He is killed in the process of conducting an incantation. MacKensie also meets, Edgar "Benny" Benedek(Dennis Dugan). Benedek is a free lance writer who specializes in the paranormal. He also writes for a tabloid magazine. MacKensie is completely unaware of this side of Benedeks investigations until he is informed by Dr. Moorhouse. Moorhouse reluctantly gives MacKensie permission to use Benedek as an assistant. Together they discover how Pence was killed and what is causing the "hauntings".
This is a pretty straight forward predictable film, but there are some seriously funny moments. Hermione Baddeley is very funny as Mel Lacy, the "wall feeler" from Liverpool, who feels walls to find where the ghosts are hiding. In order for her to be in sync, she has to drink an old family recipe. This is not the usual alcoholic drink. It has boiled mice in it. There is a scene in a restaurant where MacKensie is eating a nice dinner and his privacy is invaded by Benedek who introduces him to a unigue dish from Eastern Europe. Chocolate ice cream, garlic and turnips.(I haven't gotten the courage to try that one yet.) In the middle of this scene, enters a young blond woman who is claiming her cash from Benedek and is obviously a prostitute, creating a very awkward moment, which is enjoyed by MacKensie. There are other moments that made me smile.
This is a very silly movie and probably deserves only 2 to 2.5 stars, but I enjoyed it and watch it when I can. All the actors did well, the directing and editing were great. I haven't seen the series, that continued from this pilot movie, but it didn't finish it's first 13 episodes, so it was probably pretty bad.
Like so many things in Hollywood, ideas get worked and reworked and 8 years later this idea got reworked into one of TV's most successful science fiction series, the X-Files.