REVIEW: THE GHOSTKEEPERS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: ANTHONY D. P. MANN / SCREENPLAY: ANTHONY D.P. MANN / STARRING: CHRISTIAN PAWLOWSKI, JENNIFER VERARDI, ANTHONY D.P MANN, SHERRI PATERSON / RELEASE DATE: TBC
While it's difficult to imagine this micro-budget, Canadian shot-on-video effort being embraced by general audiences – or even the horror community at large – on its UK release, it is at least a brave attempt to fly in the face of modern genre extremes with a subtly chilling ghost story.
Young Barry Bird (Pawlowski) lives the fanboy dream by renting Marlowe House, the location of his favourite horror flick, bringing in two of the film's stars and a medium for a retrospective podcast. Before long old secrets are revealed and the group become aware of a restless spirit in their midst.
Well, um, that's about it really, but director Mann does manage to elicit a few creepy moments along the way. The film is heavily reliant on dialogue, which, while reasonably well written, has a tendency to over explain everything to the point that it isn't all that scary anymore. Easily the best thing about it is Mann himself, in an entertaining turn as horror has-been Victor Brimstone. With his erudite English tones and Hammer-esque gait, he's believable and convincing as the former star, even if he doesn't seem quite old enough to have been making movies back in the '80s when The House Where Evil Was Born (boasting 'a Tangerine Dream score and a direct-to-video budget') was supposedly unleashed on the world. In fact, the acting from all concerned is the film's greatest asset.
Sadly, however, the problem is that, whichever way you cut it, films shot on video just look and sound horrible. Few will have the patience to actually get to any of the good stuff after they see the abominable high-end home video look and hear the dreadful video-recorded sound acoustics. Which is a shame really as it masks the artistry that Mann is obviously capable of. If you do stick it out, then you'll be rewarded with some haunting images, particularly in the flashbacks to the heart of the mystery near the end. But you'll still spend most of the time wishing that you were actually watching the fictional movie that the characters are talking about.
As patronising as this may sound, it's hard not to admire Mann for giving this a go with such scant resources at his disposal. It would be interesting to see what he could do with more of a budget behind him.