GHOST KEEPER (October 2nd)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
I've been using Letterboxd for just over a year now and not only is it a great way for logging films that you've seen (and realising what a nerd you are), it's also a really great way of discovering new films that you've never seen – or heard of. The app includes lists that other users have put together and due to the fact that Letterboxd is used by avid film fans, some of the lists compiled by people are pretty extensive. So after my Anna Fritz ordeal yesterday, I decided to look for something more lightweight and throwaway. And you know what's a great sub-genre for some easy thrills? The slasher genre! I know that it tends to be one of those 'love it or hate it' set of films, I'm firmly the former and I can easily sit through a technically awful 1980's slasher film and still have a lot of fun. So imagine my joy when I discovered a list on Letterboxd called 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Slasher films (1974-1995)' – that includes a whopping 632 movies. Yippee! The list is displayed as thumbnails of the film's posters, which is another added joy – and that's basically how I made my choice for today's viewing. I picked a poster that looked cool – and that's how I ended up watching a 1981 slasher called Ghostkeeper.
Oh Ghostkeeper. Where to begin. I guess, with the plot. Ok, so the film opens with three obnoxious twenty-somethings on their way to a New Year's party. On snowmobiles. They're in the snowy mountains of Canada and despite the warnings of a local shop owner about not going off the beaten track, that's precisely what the trio do. Ignoring 'private property, keep out' signs is never a wise idea and when the friends reach the end of the road they find themselves in front of a large abandoned lodge. It's here where one of their snowmobiles malfunctions and as the weather worsens, they decide to let themselves into the lodge to rest up and gather their thoughts. Once inside, it becomes apparent that this building has been empty for several years. However as they begin to explore their surroundings, one of the three starts to suspect that there is someone else in the lodge with them...
Anyone that has seen Cold Prey will probably think this all sounds rather familiar and the set up does sound a bit like Roar Uthaug's slashfest. However, once the characters enter the abandoned lodge, the similarities between these two films end really. Ghostkeeper is very much of it's type and anyone that has seen any Canadian slashers from the 80s will know what I mean. It's a bit quirky and a bit odd and is much more interested in building up atmosphere than spilling blood. The old school jangly score by Paul Zaza underpins the whole thing and Ghostkeeper is full of dark corridors, crackling fireplaces and snowstorms. There's a delightful sense of eeriness and the abandoned lodge is a genuinely creepy setting, like a mini Overlook hotel. In fact, that's not the only similarity with Kubrick's film that Ghostkeeper has. There are very specific plot point and scenes (which I wont go into as they are spoilers) which feel uncannily like that movie.
It's also a confused film, which simultaneously adds to it's sense of mystery (and charm) but ultimately results in a rather muddled climax and conclusion. The film opens with a quote about a wendigo but it's not always clear how this fits in with what is really going on inside the lodge and although it is very much supposed to be pivotal to the plot, it's not entirely clear once the credits begin to roll. Apparently funding basically ran out halfway through filming and Director Jim Makichuk faced the choice of either abandoning the film or carrying on with next to no money. He opted for the latter but admitted that it affected the latter part of the movie. Those budgetary issues do make sense when you see what the 'big evil' is in Ghostkeeper. The posters and film cover feature some pretty cool looking depictions but they are entirely misleading.
It's fair to say that this film is flawed and the further it goes on and the mystery unravels, the less appealing it becomes. However, this is something of a hidden gem and the first forty minutes or so are really pretty cool (as far as low budget 80s slashers go). It's a bit more restrained than some of its peers but I dug that too. The relationship between the central trio is also brilliantly weird and edgy. Two of the three are a couple (Jenny and Marty) but he clearly wants to have sex with the third member of the party, a woman named Chrissy. This all culminates in a scene where Jenny challenges her boyfriend on the subject and he basically tells her to deal with it and that he can do what he wants. She later apologises to him for getting on his back. Ha! 80's relationships eh?
Anyway, I was after something lighter and more disposable than last nights cringefest and for the most part, I found it. The fact it wasn't quite so schlocky and vacuous as I hoped was actually an unexpected surprise. If you like digging up little known slashers and revelling in the whole 80s thing, Ghostkeeper is available on Amazon Prime.