Andrew Stevens (Brian Sutherland) wins a radio contest that requires him to spend one night alone in an old theater, on the 80th anniversary of a brutal murder/suicide that took place there. If he stays all night, he’ll win $50,000. However, this is easier said than done, since the theater is rumored to be haunted. Andrew thinks the stories are all hokum, but once inside it becomes apparent that he is not at all alone, and what was thought to be a contest turns into a game of survival.
Let me be upfront with you, Ghostlight is not scary at all; also it’s not very good. Described as a horror/thriller film, any and all efforts to frighten and entertain fall flat, and as a result we are left with a most forgettable movie. This is unfortunate, because in watching the special features it appears that writer/director Jeff Ferrell is a standup guy, someone who loves the craft of movie making and is excited about partaking in his first ever full-length feature. He also acts in the film as the dearly departed Eddie, who is one third of the ghostly trio haunting the theater. But excitement does not guarantee success, and his freshman attempt lacks the key elements that make for a great movie: good acting, a great script, and overcoming budgetary limitations. Ghostlight has all of these hurdles to jump, but is never able to conquer them.
The story of some dope spending the night in a haunted building has been done a million times before, and Ghostlight adds nothing new to this theme. The ghosts (Ramona Freeborn, David A. Crellin, and Ferrell) aren’t very ghosty, the performances are far more terrifying than the roles themselves. As Andrew, Sutherland does a decent job playing the part of a husband and father, desperate to win cash that could get them out of debt. And his performance tops that of all the other actors in the film, but it’s not strong enough to save the picture. Lisa Coronado plays Andrew’s wife, Mira, a woman haunted her entire life by dreams that portend tragedy, and just before her husband’s fateful night in the theater, she begins having terrible dreams yet again. Coronado spends a lot of time looking tormented, but her performance seems forced, and soon she becomes more of a chore to watch than a pleasure.
Eden Campbell, who plays the couple’s young daughter Emma, is even more effective in her role than Sutherland. Natural in front of the camera, she holds her own against any of the adults around her. Emma is important to the most interesting plot twist of the picture; it is a genuine surprise when it comes to light, and gave me hope that this would be one of those indy gems. No such luck. This revelation happens in the first fifteen minutes of Ghostlight, and it’s all downhill from there. Don’t worry though, I won’t spoil the one real positive to take away from the film, in case you decide to check it out for yourself.
The 1.78:1 widescreen presentation of Ghostlight is a decent DVD transfer, with clear images and good lighting. Some of the scenes were a little too bright considering there’s a big deal made about there being only one light working — the infamous ‘ghostlight,’ which legend has it, is left on in all theaters when there are no shows in production. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo audio makes it easy to hear the dialogue, and sadly the soundtrack as well. It’s part horror, part soap opera, and all too intrusive. Especially the song performed by Freeborn, who plays the lone female ghost. This droning tune is like nails on a chalkboard, but maybe that’s what ghosts sound like when they sing. Extras include a very long behind the scenes featurette. Also included is a short called “Morella,” staring Lisa Coronado and Dennis Kleinsmith from the feature presentation. Based on an Edgar Allen Poe story, it suffers from some of the same issues as Ghostlight.
Although Ghostlight is a less than thrilling contribution to the horror genre, I hope someone who loves movie making as much as Jeff Ferrell is given another opportunity to hone his craft and create bigger and better movies.
2014, Brain Damage Films, 90minutes, NR (2013)
VIDEO: 1.78:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0 (English) SUBTITLES: None
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurette, Short Film ACCOMPLICES: IMDB