Studio: Uncork’d Entertainment
Director: David Ryan Keith
Writer: David Ryan Keith, Paul Flannery
Producer: Lorraine Keith
Stars: Michael Koltes, Paul Flannery, Steve Weston, Lisa Livingstone, Cameron Mowat, Lisa Cameron, Liam Matheson, Lindsay Cromar, Morgan Keith
A psychic and a paranormal researcher investigate a haunted mansion with a long history of mysteriously murdered occupants.
Richmond Manor is reportedly cursed. For two centuries, no occupant has managed to stay in the house longer than three days without committing a murder or being the victim of one. Following the most recent incident, a double homicide and suicide at the hands of a 13-year-old girl, the unknown owner needs a publicity stunt to assure prospective buyers that everything is all well and good.
Enter skeptical paranormal researcher Jack and eccentric psychic Jonathan. Both men usually work alone. Yet a strange man makes them an offer to spend three days locked inside as the only men of the manor, expecting a conclusion that there is in fact no evil entity haunting the estate.
Conflicting personalities as well as positions on paranormal phenomena set the unlikely duo off on the wrong foot. But when bumps in the night become dangerously real, the two men realize there is something supernatural behind the manor’s mystery, and they must team up to solve it if they expect to survive.
“Ghosts of Darkness” is standard slow-burn spookshow stuff. This means the whole nine yards of Ouija boards, waking suddenly from a flashback nightmare, doors opening or closing on their own, and the rest of the checklist every clichéd chiller has culled from for decades.
But if I’m going to watch a run-of-the-mill microbudget horror film, I find it easier to swallow one with overseas origins, in this case Scotland. I imagine a European equivalent of me, someone who has stomached routine VOD thrillers born of Britain and neighboring isles the way I have American-made horror, might give “Ghosts of Darkness” a thumbs down for being generally mundane with too small of a scope to compete against its counterparts. Yet something about the accents, look, and location lends a fascinating flavor where flaws are easier to forgive because the film doesn’t feel as ordinary as it actually is.
“Ghosts of Darkness” gets by a great deal on the charm of Paul Flannery as Jonathan. The quickly quipping psychic is the kind of casually comic chap who speaks with perpetually animated fingers accenting every other line. He is as intellectually insightful as he is amiably amusing, a great combination for a character in a movie anxiously awaiting a spark.
Jonathan’s counterpart Jack, on the other hand, is flat as a board. Michael Koltes is too soft-spoken to give Jack a much-needed edge, though the script doesn’t write him to be buoyant in the first place. Jack shows up in a leather jacket like he might be a cool Bruce Campbell ‘Fonzie,’ but becomes mentally mired in a tragic backstory dampening him with dullness. Put better banter and electrified chemistry between this duo and “Ghosts of Darkness” would have the full personality it needs.
With the vanilla thrills of two men creeping about an old house chasing visions and waiting for something substantial to happen weighing it down, “Ghosts of Darkness” figures out ways to push momentum that the plot doesn’t have. Niall Mathewson’s score is tireless, though not overpowering, and keeps mood moving through music. The camera follows suit by cutting regularly, slowly pushing in here and there, or canting its angle for variety. Basically, execution does all it can to be interesting. It’s simply the script that only tries half as hard.
That technical effort elevates the film’s review rating. Scenes are bathed in light like a made-for-TV movie, but at least there is lighting, which often isn’t the case in lazier low-budget flicks. The camera stays steady too, sometimes mounted for dolly movements or otherwise ensuring it is properly positioned before rolling. No “get it done and move on” handheld here.
Examine end credits and you’ll find a small crew wearing multiple hats, like the 2nd A.C. and a sound recorder doing double duties as grips. I wish the movie they made were more original and exciting. Yet everyone took the time to get the basics right at a minimum, making a micro-movie look like a little bit more, and that certainly counts for something.
Review Score: 55