Stars: Michael Koltes, Paul Flannery, Steve Weston, Lisa Livingstone, Lisa Cameron, Morgan Faith Keith, Cameron Mowat | Written and Directed by David Ryan Keith
Two paranormal investigators are unexpectedly thrown together in the hope of solving a 100-year mystery. Locked for three nights in a house with a dark and unsettling past, the two investigators must put their differences to one side and work together. They soon discover the myths and stories are nothing compared to what actually resides within the eerie walls of Richwood Manor. Scepticism and showmanship are soon put to one side when the two investigators realise there is more at stake than just their professional reputation. For once they have stumbled onto the real thing, but this time it’s their own lives at stake…
As Ghosts of Darkness started, the first thing that popped into my head was “Oh god, not another British ghost story.” You see, over the years I’ve seen plenty of British-made horrors that try to capture the spookiness of a true haunted house flick and I’ve seen plenty fail. So much so that you could say I’m a little, prejudiced, against the genre.
I say this only to give you some insight into just what it would take for such a film to impress… And impress Ghosts of Darkness most certainly does. In spades.
Essentially a two-man production, for the majority Ghosts of Darkness‘ running time only leads Michael Koltes and Paul Flannery appear on screen – a situation which is often dangerous for a low-budget production. Thankfully both are utterly compelling in their own individual ways. Flannery brings the humour, whilst Koltes is more your serious, everyman hero. Both work extremely well together, feeding off each others performances; and their on-screen chemistry is undeniable.
It’s Flannery in particular, whose character Jonathan Blazer, from the moment he appears on screen, all suited and booted in what you’d expect to be – given his appearance – a foppish “dandy” kind of role, who exudes charisma. How the actor has not been cast in British film productions before this I don’t know; his screen presence is ridiculously captivating (reminding me very much of League of Gentlemen‘s Jeremy Dyson). So succesful is Flannery that I’d gladly watch a whole franchise of films featuring his psychic Jonathan Blazer.
There’s some incredibly funny gallows humour throughout Ghosts of Darkness, humour which offsets the more gruesome aspects of the film. Keith’s movie is also very self-aware, with jokes at its own expense, including a fantastic gag about how easy this films demons are to defeat: telegraphing the ridiculous, and predictable “twist”. That kind of humour – a knowing nod and wink to the audience – is what makes Ghosts of Darkness so enjoyable and so much fun.
But it’s not all fun and laughs, Ghosts of Darkness does have some effective scary moments too, with some grotesque (and very bloody) imagery from the get-go. The opening salvo, THAT scene in the kitchen, sets the stage for what is to come and writer/director David Ryan Keith doesn’t shy away from giving the audience what they want: the titular ghosts – which range from the eerie to the outlandish.
However when you’re trying to show the “ultimate evil” on a budget something has to give; and in this case it’s the CGI. Yes, towards the climax of the film, when the filmmakers up the ghostly ante, the film goes down the route of excessive, ropey, CGI But, and this is the thing that surprised me the most with Ghosts of Darkness, between the story, the stars and the staging, the film builds copious amounts of goodwill with its audience, which effectively means said CGI is forgiveable. Besides, the overall effects work is so successful that a flawed finale doesn’t actually detract from anything that has come before.
A superb journey into the ghostly world of British horror, Ghosts of Darkness is a perfect storm of filmmaking: everyone and everything coming together to create something sensational. More of Jonathan Blazer’s ghost huntng adventures please!
Ghosts of Darkness debuts on VOD March 7th, from Uncork’d Entertainment.