‘A Ghost Waits’ Movie Review: Black And White And Dead All Over [Screamfest]
Haunting movies are all the rage again thanks to James Wan’s Insidious and Conjuring franchises. A Ghost Waits has a clever new take, making it a horror comedy both deconstructing and reinforcing what we love about haunted house stories.
‘A Ghost Waits’ for Jack
Jack (MacLeod Andrews) takes a job cleaning a house. His boss also asks him to figure out why everybody keeps breaking their leases and leaving. We, the viewers, already saw a family flee the house from a ghost, so we know what Jack is in for.
Muriel (Natalie Walker) begins haunting Jack subtly, watching him sing and singing along with her. He checks out every noise she makes but talks himself down, which makes her try harder. His stubbornness pushes Muriel.
Once he accepts that there’s a ghost, Jack makes conversation while he works. Andrews and Walker have really good chemistry, and eventually team up against another ghost.
‘A Ghost Waits’ is like ‘Clerks’ for haunted houses
A Ghost Waits sort of feels like Clerks for haunted houses. In Clerks, Kevin Smith made a black and white indie movie about the convenience store where he worked. Nobody works at a haunted house, but it feels like writers MacLeod and Adam Stovall (who directed) love haunted houses as much as Smith loved the Quik Stop.
Jack and Muriel do a lot of talking and philosophizing about the scenario haunted house movies take for granted. It’s irreverent towards the mythology of ghosts and haunting, yet still has some genuinely creepy moments. When it explore the hierarchy of Muriel’s work, it makes haunting seem like a mundane job. Yet the inevitable romance between Jack and Muriel (will they or won’t they?) is sweet and genuine.
Making microbudget work
Also apropos to the Clerks comparison, A Ghost Waits makes creative choices to maximize its minimal resources. This is clearly a microbudget movie with one guy in a house. The cast grows to include a few ghosts, but it’s one location and no big special effects except for the ghost makeup. Well, there’s one visual effect involving Jack but it’s fairly common with desktop software now.
Stovall also filmed in black and white, which is more of an intentional choice with digital cameras. Smith filmed Clerks in black and white to save money. Here, it makes A Ghost Waits feel more surreal, more impressionistic, more simpatico with classic black and white ghost movies (which it, in turn, subverts).
Screamfest is a good venue for premiering a scrappy, clever indie horror like A Ghost Waits. Hopefully a distributor sees the value in it. When they put it out, its clever irreverence should make it stand out from the more in your face horror releases.