A Ghost Waits
Horror cinema has had a strong track record in the past couple of years of introducing stunning debuts from first-time feature filmmakers. Add writer/director Adam Stovall to that list with his winning entry A Ghost Waits, a black-and-white offering that delivers chilling moments (the third act contains a scene that may go down as one of the most controversial of this year), plenty of offbeat humor, and a truly charming romance angle.
Jack (MacLeod Andrews) is a handyman who fixes up vacated houses and readies them for new tenants. His boss gives him the task of finding out why one certain property has such a frequent and sudden turnaround, with people leaving abruptly. Viewers learn long before Jack does that that the cause is a ghost — that of a young woman named Muriel (Natalie Walker). She is actually a “spectral agent” whose job it is to scare humans off the property, and she works for the no-nonsense Ms. Henry (Amanda Miller).
When Jack refuses to leave the house simply because he has a job to finish there, Muriel also finds that her tenancy at the property is threatened because she isn’t performing her duties well. An unhappy Ms. Henry sends a younger spectral agent named Rosie (Sydney Vollmer of the 2016 horror short Elly), who takes to her job with a much more ferocious bent.
All the while, Jack and Muriel’s mutual curiosity turns into a budding romance, which is beautifully portrayed by the two leads. Andrews, who was terrific in Perry Blackshear’s films They Look Like People (2015) and The Siren (AKA The Rusalka; 2019), is equally strong here, and newcomer Walker is superb. The supporting cast members are also fine, making A Ghost Waits worthy of a watch for the acting alone.
There is much more to recommend with this film, though. Stovall’s story and dialogue are both beautiful, and he gives the film plenty of time to breathe and unroll its riches. Michael C. Potter’s black-and-white cinematography is nothing short of sumptuous, and together with Madeline Winter’s modern take on old-school makeup effects for Walker’s Muriel, gives the film an engaging look that feels equally rooted in both modern independent cinema and classic scare fare of yesteryear.
Director Julian Seri, whose intriguing 2015 genre offering Night Fare pitted a rampaging taxi driver against a couple of young jerks, does a decent job helming the thriller Anderson Falls but stumbles occasionally with some odd choices. Some, or perhaps much, of the reason for the missteps lies in the screenplay from Giles Daoust, producer of such outstanding films as Starry Eyes (2014) and The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (2018). It offers little in the way of originality and fresh dialogue, following the all-too-familiar beats of many generic police procedurals and serial killer chases.
Shawn Ashmore portrays detective Jeff Anderson (Devil’s Gate  and Frozen ), whose artist wife is murdered at the beginning of the film by a father-and-son pair of serial killers, played by genre film and television series veteran Gary Cole and Richard Harmon (Grave Encounters 2  and the Van Helsing TV series). Anderson finds his wife dead in the tub, her wrists slit. Her death is officially ruled a suicide, but Anderson beleives she was murdered, and he goes on an obsessive quest to find her killers, distancing himself from his young son (Judah Mackey). Among the many characters who don’t believe him are his former partner and now chief (Daniella Alonso) and his mother (fright film favorite Lin Shaye).
Anderson Falls treads familiar ground, often in a head-scratching manner, including a black-and-white sequence showing multiple shots of Anderson’s Face, Ashmore performing breakdown scenes that border on comical, some corny dialogue delivered by fine actors doing their best with the material, and one convenient occurrence after another. On more positive notes, Seri keeps things rolling along at a steady clip and shows a keen eye for composing shots, and Shan Liljestrand’s cinematography looks crisp and fantastic.
A Ghost Waits and Anderson Falls screened at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow, which ran March 5th –7th at Glasgow Film Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland.