By GRACE DETWILER
Starring MacLeod Andrews, Natalie Walker, Sydney Vollmer
Written and Directed by Adam Stovall
As what is perhaps the best-executed low budget horror film of the last year, Adam Stovall’s incandescent A GHOST WAITS will haunt your heart and mind long after you switch the television off. In our times of quarantine and isolation, it is rare that a love story on the big (or small) screen feels relatable enough to be relevant or real enough to be poignant. Yet – despite its supernatural trappings – Stovall’s film manages to be both relevant and poignant, while still delivering as a horror film in the same breath. Oscillating seamlessly between funny and scary, heartbreaking and heartwarming, A GHOST WAITS provides a new take on the haunted house movie and the rom/com meet-cute.
Unlike most films telling the story of a house possessed by a spirit from beyond the grave, A GHOST WAITS has a distinct lack of the ‘nuclear family trapped in the home by debt’ trope, and refreshingly begins with a vacated rental home in need of a couple repairs before welcoming new tenants. Hired to assess and fix up the damage, lonely and listless handyman Jack (MacLeod Andrews) arrives in the house only to find it full of the previous occupants’ furniture and belongings. As he waits several days for a moving truck to arrive, he starts to notice odd ghostly phenomena and questions his own sanity, until the presence in the house suddenly begins to speak back.
Even as a stripped-down and black-and-white production, A GHOST WAITS is undeniably well produced. By making excellent use of the audio tricks and effects within its grasp, its stellar sound design and fun use of diegetic music create a cinematic experience that far exceeds expectations. However, even in the midst of its comedy and romance, A GHOST WAITS never loses sight of its connections to the horror genre and balances its lighter moments and darkness with ease.
As Jack and the audience soon learn, the titular ghost who waits is in fact a Beetlejuice-esque ‘spectral agent’ by the name of Muriel (Natalie Walker). Having been tasked with scaring away any potential occupants of her designated house, Muriel becomes increasingly frustrated with Jack’s stubborn toleration of her presence. “Why are you here?” she askes, in a disembodied voice. “To fix the house,” Jack replies. Muriel insists, “This house is not broken…I like your singing.”
As Muriel and Jack slowly become used to one another, a tentative connection forms between them. Being people from incredibly different places and times, their attempts to get to know each other are wholesome, endearing, and particularly touching given Jack, Muriel, and the viewers’ recent experiences of isolation. Following their transformation from adversaries, to allies, to something more, Jack and Muriel team up against afterlife bureaucracies, invading spirits – and eventually – life itself.
Featuring cinematic techniques ranging from amusing haunting gags to Lynchian dream sequences, A GHOST WAITS has everything going for it. The simple yet effective lighting, makeup, and special effects – coupled with the compelling performances by both Andrews and Walker – make for a terrific horror film and an equally terrific love story. In the wake of its fittingly dark ending, viewers of A GHOST WAITS will find themselves left with a new philosophy of love in the face of uncrossable boundaries of life and death. Having had its streaming premiere February 1st on the Arrow streaming platform, A GHOST WAITS is my recommendation for any horror fan’s film of choice this Valentine’s Day.
A GHOST WAITS is now available to stream on Arrow.