Hauntings and originality don’t mix well these days in films. While as viewers, we’re typically left with Ghosts in Georgia, exorcisms, haunted houses and whatever else we’re spoonfed at a rapid pace as of late, let’s just face it: an original take on ghost-filled horror films just isn’t something that happens very often. Lucky for fans of the genre, Jeff Ferrell’s feature debut, GHOSTLIGHT, gives viewers not only something new, but a tense and beautifully shot film that offers more mood and atmosphere than films 100 times its size.
There’s something intrinsically special about a filmmaker’s debut film that shows whether or not the director knows their stuff. While some grow with time (and that comes with the territory), some filmmakers hit the ground running on their first feature, something that Ferrell does with great precision on GHOSTLIGHT. It’s a film that while limited by its lack of a huge budget, never pulls back on the scope of the story that was in Ferrell’s head while creating the tale of a man spending the night in a haunted theater. When the film’s protagonist, Andrew (Brian Sutherland) wins a contest in which the prize is given to whoever can spend a single night alone in a theater on its anniversary, it seems like a no-brainer, go for the money. While Andrew’s wife feels somewhat against the venture (she sees images of ghosts having to do with the classical looking theater), Andrew sees the situation as a away to help provide for his wife and himself, and also to confront past heartaches.
It’s a setup that though somewhat simple, works perfectly for the film. Ferrell does a great job setting up the husband/wife characters, before throwing Andrew into the theater, ready for what (and who) will be awaiting him, once the doors shut. As the night goes on, Andrew slowly experiences the spirits of a couple previously caught up in a tragic love triangle years before, as well as similar spirits leading Andrew’s wife Mira to experience a fair share of dread and danger herself.
Ferrell’s eye for what shots he wants is something that sets GHOSTLIGHT apart from many other first time attempts. While other directors use their first film as something of a trial and error, it’s obvious that Ferrell knew exactly what tone he wanted with the film, and gives viewers a successfully eerie film, full of fear and melancholia. Instead of going for the cliche’d quick cut and jump scare approach, GHOSTLIGHT opts for more of a classical approach, setting a tone and mood, and allowing the film’s scares to happen slowly, and play out in a manner that gets under your skin, an approach much m0re impressive than just throwing non-stop shocks at the audience.
Filled with an exceptionally composed score by Semih Tareen, GHOSTLIGHT feels closer to a haunted theater film from the ’60s or ’70s than something that would be released these days, a feeling that is definitely a welcomed one. The grandiosity of the film’s music, combined with impressive direction from Ferrell and performances by all involved, makes GHOSTLIGHT a film that shows that Ferrell has a great career ahead of him, one that is worth keeping track of.