With premiere at Glasgow Frightfest, Adam Stovall brings the world a paranormal romance which touches a bit on Beetlejuice and a little bit of Ghost with A Ghost Waits...
...MacLeod Andrews (They Look Like Us) plays Jack, an everyday kind of guy who works as a handyman and does not seem to have much else going for him. After he needs to leave his apartment due to fumigation, Jack struggles to find a place to stay (or even a friend willing to answer the phone). Frustrated with his situation, he focuses on his work which involves improving a rental unit where the tenants keep breaking their lease. Cue fixing things montage with a catchy song! Even though the renters moved out (more like fled) of the house, the family left a lot of their possessions behind and the landlord wants Jack to find out why this is the case. Apparently, tenants leaving suddenly occurs frequently in this particular unit. Most likely because this fully furnished home comes complete with a ghost!
Jack busies himself with work and even finds time to play a guitar he found. He sings “Yellow Cotton Dress” and the repetitive lyrics of the tune allows for a fun sing-along as everyone living or dead wants to join in on the song. Music appears throughout the film either on the radio or via a living and non-living duet, which plays a role in the character development of the ghost. However, in a few scenes the music becomes distracting and the volume of the song drowns out the dialogue. Once the music calms down, the film provides some good use of creaking floorboards, heart beats, and crying babies to help build tension.
The cast of the film stays small and aside from a couple voices coming from off screen, Jack is the only person we see for almost the first 20 minutes of the film. Obviously budgeting restrictions kept the number of bodies on set light, but the lack of interactions with other people also helps us get to know our leading man. In fact, during a conversation between Jack and a toilet, we learn Mr. Fix-it does not have a lot of friends or at least anyone in his life prepared to take him in as a houseguest. Obvious solution: camp out in the living room of the recently abandoned rental unit!
Part of the reason Jack fails at human interactions stems from him displaying really uncomfortable people skills. We see an awkward exchange with a pizza man, awkward talks on the phone with his boss, and even awkward conversations with himself. In a dream sequence, Jack encounters himself as an existential bartender who wants Jack to acknowledge the depressing life he currently leads. The dream mixes in dashes of surrealism to keep you asking “what?”. Possibly to distract from the one man-show about a guy talking to himself and starring sad-sap Jack.
Eventually even the boss stops answering his phone, so Jack becomes a constant fixture in the house because he apparently lacks any other option. When Muriel the ghost (Natalie Walker) finally interacts with Jack, the lonely man proves he is so starved for attention that he does not really question it when a mysterious voice enquires about his intentions for the house. While the chemistry between the two characters works, the character of Muriel becomes grating at times due to lack of believable lines and forced delivery. Muriel makes it clear she died before the creation of cinema but based off her grammar she died before the contraction was invented as well. The fake “old timey” manner of speaking made the character under-developed and Muriel deserved more than that.
One interesting aspect of the film takes a look at how the involvement of government bureaucracy does not end when we die. When Muriel hits a bit of a snag with scaring away the handy man, she heads to the home office of the deceased and asks her supervisor for tips. Jack was hired to work on the house and Muriel was hired to haunt the house. Both were assigned to the house to fulfill certain duties involving the home, but unfortunately their job descriptions (and romantic interests) conflict with the vision of the paranormal administration. So, the higher-ups must get involved to make sure the hauntings continue.
The film does not hold any scares because the low budget limits effects and Muriel looks more like your average goth-girl than a ghostly apparition. Also, the choice of using a black and white palette for the film does not add to the tone or atmosphere and actually makes the setting constantly bathed in light. The bright interiors of the house take away from any supernatural build-up, but the film seems more concerned with humor and romance anyways. The story blends some interesting ideas and the use of the small cast and single setting shows what can be accomplished with a low budget, however, a little more spookiness would not have hurt.
By Amylou Ahava
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