Written by Becky Darke – exclusive reporter for FrightFest 2020
Director Adam Stovall, who also wrote the screenplay with star MacLeod Andrews, brings us a sweet and sombre story of two people just trying to get on with their work whilst constantly getting in each other’s way and slowly realising they’re exactly what the other has been waiting for all along. So far so familiar, but this house is haunted.
Andrews stars as Jack opposite Natalie Walker’s Muriel, and they make a delightful duo with whom to traverse the ups and downs of DIY and beyond-the-grave bureaucracy. Both are excellent, with Andrews particularly standing out; he’s in almost every scene, carrying the narrative and imbuing Jack with an authentic charm, even managing a convincingly empathetic conversation with a toilet.
The filmmakers do a lot with their budget. A Ghost Waits is presented in eye-pleasing black and white, and employs an interesting use of sound and music, including its simple electronic score, which is video game-like at times, and oddly works. Even when things have the potential to look ropey, elements like the ghosts’ make-up are deeply likeable and only add to the film’s appeal.
They’re also clearly not strangers to the conventions of haunted house movies, and thankfully the ghostly action starts swiftly, with a disembodied rocking chair and some creaking doors from approximately 5 minutes in. There are nods to Stephen King throughout, plus it’s fun playing ‘spot the reference’ with the likes of The Amityville Horror, The Woman in Black, The Sixth Sense and Beetlejuice.
There’s a certain melancholy that plays throughout the story; Jack isn’t good with people, or perhaps they’re not good with him, and many of his interactions end awkwardly. He’s unappreciated and lonely, and at points sleep deprived and hungry. But the film sets up the supernatural action in a way that leaves little room for doubt in the ghostly realm’s existence in this reality, and that helps to soften and contextualise some of the more devastating moments.
Graceful editing moves the action along and the screenplay is full of laughs and moments of genuine emotion.
A Ghost Waits examines people’s connections to physical spaces, at vocations and purpose, and at the vulnerability we invite when we open ourselves up to others. It reaches high and is largely successful in surpassing a sentimental human/ghost love story, with thoughtful filmmaking, characters we care about, and convincing stakes.
Verdict: 4 out of 5