Written & Directed by David Ryan Keith
Produced by Lorraine Keith
Production by Clear Focus Movies Ltd
Music by Niall Mathewson
A couple of years ago when 5D was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the new film from Aberdeen based production company, Clear Focus Movies our overall feel for The Redwood Massacre was hugely positive. The fact that I also received a press pass to after the review to see the film for free at the premier was also hugely positive. In fact if memory serves me correctly the movie was referred to by myself as "an excellently 'bloody' cinematic experience......a fine slasher film that for the most part is excellently paced and will have you hooked from the very first minute to the very last."
Well as a matter of fact, it wasn't from memory, I just now checked the article again then cut and pasted the remark. So now as it turns out, here we are some time later with the follow up from the company, Ghosts of Darkness, which may well do the same for paranormal horror as they did for the slasher genre.
I must admit that when I first learnt that the latest film from Clear Focus Movies was visiting the world of the paranormal horror film I was a little dubious, though not because I doubted that they had the wherewithal to accomplish it. The reason was that in my experience the haunted house genre has not only been 'done to death' (sic) over the years, but that the results can also can by decidedly hit or miss, with very little in-between.
Because for every 'The Changeling (1980)' (in my humble opinion, perhaps the greatest ever of its kind) there is also a Cliché riddled Paranormal Activity (well OK, the first one was fine but after that...........). No, one has to be very careful if one is to try and incorporate something new into perhaps one of the oldest of horror genre tales.
But before I wax lyrical about how Ghosts of Darkness have not only coped well with the intrinsic challenges of the genre but in some areas surpassed them, so let me throw you a little synopsis your way.....
"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 the mysterious House.
Well hello handsome......
For once they have stumbled onto the real thing, but this time it’s their own lives at stake."
There are two things that for me are essential for any paranormal haunted house horror type story - the chills on offer and also the depth of character relationships of those who inhabit the dwelling. I'll come to the chill factor in a few moments because for now I want to talk about the two main characters in the story - and from whom the performances are nothing short of scintillating.
It is clear to see that the makers this film proudly wear their knowledge and inspirations of supernatural horror lore on their collective sleeves. While the idea of being challenged (or in this case 'paid') to spend in an allegedly haunted house to disprove or publicize a myth has been done before, the notion of a 'scientific skeptic' paired with a 'paranormal professional' is possibly less familiar.
The scientist and the master of Tweed
This certainly could have resulted in nothing more than a clichéd hotchpotch of familiar horror sub-themes. Yes we do have some old horror chums here such as the eccentric Psychic, the doomed previous occupants and the square jawed hero far who is far too good-looking for his own good. Combined with the fact that much of the film rests on just two main characters who have been thrown together, the authenticity of their relationship is incredibly important. In essence, the film could have easily floundered on this point. However the filmmakers confidently avoid falling into to tried and tested horror tropes
At the risk of being overly gushing in my praise I have to say that both Michael Koltes and Paul Flannery are excellent and utterly compelling. Koltes provides a nice turn as the skeptic driven onwards both by science and the recent death of a loved one, completely at odds with Flannery's eccentric psychic. Flannery's performance (with a noticeable nod to some notable old school performers) is hugely entertaining with an array of facial expressions and comedic one-liners all delivered with confident aplomb. It feels a little unfair to single out Flannery as opposed to Koltes as both are very good, but the extrovert wine-guzzling-tweed-wearing-psychic was always going to win over the methodical scientist in the entertainment stakes. I also don't think it harms to be the co-screenplay writer . Now I'm not saying that this means that as a writer/actor you simply go ahead and give yourself the best lines, far from it your honour - but I don't suppose it harms........(My legal team advised me to include that last disclaimer just in case Mr Flannery decides to sue the pants off me).
The film is swept along on a constant wave of witty dialogue with a pacey script throughout - though occasionally in the quieter moments of exchanges one or two of the scenes go on a little longer than possibly they should have. However these moments are few and far between.
Of course any film of this nature relies on the fact that it should be scary. You may laugh at the obvious remark, but it never fails to amaze me just how many supposedly scary films actually lack a vital ingredient of being, well you know, erm, scary. Be very clear, Ghosts of Darkness is a genuinely scary paranormal horror film. I will as usual try to avoid spoilers at all costs but it's safe to say that there are a number of scenes that will provide any self-respecting chill seeker with their adrenaline fix - usually it's the ones where you shout "don't go down the stairs alone to see what the noise is!.........why would he go down the stairs alone?!"
As with The Redwood Massacre it has to be said that a film shot in the North East of Scotland couldn't really help but look good, after all, this part of the world is most definitely gods own. That being said, this is a movie that is wonderfully shot. The camerawork is truly stunning, not just in the outdoor sequences but in the dim and claustrophobic interior scenes which add an intense layer of added terror. The colours and textures of the film are a feast for the eyes. Besides looking good, it all sounds great with a beautifully evocative soundtrack that adds the perfect level of atmospheric chills to the overall experience.
Tickets for Ghosts of Darkness are (or at least were yesterday, because they're selling quickly) available for the local Aberdeen premier at the Queens Links Cineworld on the 13th October. If you live in the area then go to the link to book tickets at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ghosts-of-darkness-aberdeen-premiere-cert-15-tickets-27773522353
You can find out more about Clear Focus Productions RIGHT HERE