Sadly, many modern horror films use jump scares to give us moments of terror. But how long do those scares last after exiting our seats? Atmospheric horror immerses us in the creepy though, giving horror fan’s that primal excitement that we crave, even after leaving the cinema.
Ghostlight certainly follows in the classic tradition of atmospheric horror. Its use of strange props, scribbled messages, and shadowy mannequins were quite effective. Instead of jumping out at you, the ghosts would sometimes appear in the corner of your vision, or at other times they would be right in front of you before leaning in slowly. When we pair these visuals with the haunting music from Semih Tareen, we find ourselves exploring the eerie world of theater superstition which writer/director Jeff Ferrell presents.
The premise of this story is a popular theatrical superstition, that being that every theater has at least one ghost. As such, a ghost light is often lit on empty stages at night to ward off the spirits or to appease them so that they don’t become angry and prank the living. That said, there are practical reasons for the light. One being that it keeps the backstage area lit so that people don’t trip over the clutter or fall into the orchestra pit. Another reason states that during the time of coal gas generators, the ghost light would prevent a buildup of explosive gases.
In this film, Andrew (Brian Sutherland) must spend 12 hours inside a haunted theater in order to win $50,000. To make matters worse though, this lock-in takes place on the 80th anniversary of a gruesome murder/suicide which took place there. So the spirits of Eddie (Jeff Ferrell) and Madeline (Ramona Freeborn) are restless and plan to escape the theater by manipulating Andrew, his wife Mira (Lisa Coronado) and his daughter Emma (Eden Campbell). The story becomes more involved as we learn more about the current and previous theater owners (Dennis Keinsmith and David Crellin).
Again, the story has an eerie ambience about it. Eddie and Madeline are very creepy characters indeed. And Andrew’s exploration of the theater was like being inside a survival horror game, where you’re exploring the surroundings with nothing more than a flashlight and your wits. The mission, of course, is to find clues about what had happened there before and not get killed.
I liked much of the acting in this film, most notably the parents played by Coronado and Sutherland. Kleinsmith’s slightly over-the-top performance as Mr. Black was enjoyable as well. I’m not sure if it was intended to be that way, but it added to the strangeness and mystery of the theater itself. Which leads me to my next point. Perhaps the most important character was the historic Everett Theater, where the movie was filmed. The Everett added such dimension to this film, giving it that extra scare factor I was looking for.
I give Ghostlight a 3.5 out of 5.