Friday, 26 December 2014

Holiday Horror: Ghostkeeper (1981)

Ghostkeeper (1981)
Director: Jim Makichuk
Starring:  Riva Spier, Murray Ord, and Sheri McFadden
Running Time: 89 min

  I've never heard of this movie but it popped up when I was searching for New Year's Eve movies and with a poster like that how could I, or anyone really, say no?  Also, it is a Canadian production and the music was done by Paul Zaza, who scored "Prom Night" and "My Bloody Valentine", so at least I know the music will be decent.

  Jenny and her boyfriend, Marty are snowmobiling through the forest with their friend Chrissy, because they're bored with hanging around the resort waiting for the New Year's Eve party.  They come across a trail that specifically says "Private Property, Stay Out" but they decide to check it out, even with the pleas from Jenny telling that she think it's a bad idea. Oh Jenny...
  Eventually, Chrissy falls off her snowmobile and it breaks down for some unexplained reason but luckily it breaks down in front of a creepy abandoned hotel.  The trio forces the door open to get inside because night is coming and they need to stay warm because the temperature is dropping.  They half assedly search the hotel and can find cannot find a soul but Jenny thinks it's weird that the hotel the heating is on, even though no one is around.  Chrissy doesn't care, she's annoyed that she has to spend New Year's eve here at this hotel but she does like the attention that Marty, Jenny's boyfriend is giving her.
  Night falls and the gang finish their bottle of champagne and all of a sudden they are confronted by an older woman who claims she's the groundskeeper.  She tries to convince them to leave but Marty explains that they can't leave until morning because of the wrecked snowmobiles and the weather.  Frustrated the old woman shows them to some rooms and warns them that her son is around somewhere doing something.  So, Chrissy goes to her room and Jenny and Marty head to theirs and get into a fight about Marty flirting with Chrissy.  Marty gets fed up with Jenny accusations and the way she wants him to be monogamous in their relationship and leaves to go brush his teeth.  Take that!  He and meets up with Chrissy, who is going to go take a bath in the creepy abandoned hotel.
  For some reason, Marty doesn't join her and she has a nice soak in the tub but is murdered shortly by, I'm assuming, the groundskeepers son.  Her body is brought downstairs and fed to a caged hairy man, who likes to scream a lot.
  The next morning, Marty and Jenny can't find Chrissy and they discover that their snowmobiles have been tampered with.  Jenny is getting a bad feeling about this and instead of just walking back to the other hotel, waits to see if her idiot boyfriend can fix their snowmobiles.  Will Marty and Jenny survive this hotel of horror or have they wrung in the new year for the last time?

  I was really surprised, this was pretty good for the first two acts at least.  Writer/director Jim Makichuk (The Tower, The Odyssey) does an astounding job setting up a very intense and tension filled ghost tale in the beginning.  The dark abandoned hotel gives the perfect ambiance that any good horror story needs but loses it's edge when the daylight comes.  There are still some good scary scenes during the day but if this all took place during the night, I think it would have been a much stronger and scarier film.
  Also Georgie Collins (Rad, The Boy Who Talked To Badgers) who plays the groundskeeper is perfect for this role.  For most of the picture she is fantastically cryptic and keeps her cards close to her chest concerning her and her sons motivations but it might be too close because we, the audience, don't really get her.  Is she just crazy, is she a cannibal, who is the hairy man in the cage, why is she really there?  Reading about the film afterwards, it makes more sense but nobody reads a script while watching a film, at least I don't and these things need to be explained.  However, her performance was great with what direction she was given.

  The third act is where this film really goes downhill.  It's a new day and like I mentioned before the sun destroys all those creepy shadows and terrifying crevices for evil to lurk.
  Also, the Marty character, played by Murray Ord  (The Grey Fox, The Wild Pony) loses his mind for some reason.  Once a rational character with an even tone, he goes into this kind of "Apocalypse Now" kind of frenzy and it doesn't ring true to his character.  Additionally, the groundskeeper near the end tries to draw the Jenny character, played by Riva Spier (Rabid, Black Mirror) closer to her by talking about her crazy mother which was slightly touched on in the film but never fully explained, so it lacks any real emotional impact.
  I think the biggest problem though is that they are not clearly tying this to Windigo legend properly.  There are some newspapers lying around and it's hinted at, poorly, but there is no definitive moment where it's properly explained.  I don't mean spoon fed but just some form of dialogue between the groundskeeper talking about legends of the Windigo or a creature in that is trapped in the mountains.  Just something, so everybody is on the same page. 

  Even though I found that this film kind of goes off the rails a bit at the end, I would still recommend checking it out.  It's a got some very good atmosphere, there are some good slasher moments and there is some interesting good camera work at times.  This is a B-movie gem that will help ring in a terrifyingly new year!


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