Cathedrals will fall, the river will run red... and THE BIRD will be SLAUGHTERED!

REVIEW: Ghosts of Darkness

– By M Jones

I think there’s an aspect of the horror genre that is routinely forgotten by those who aren’t fully initiated into its eerie pleasures. Within the deep, disturbing bloodbaths of buckets of gore and freaky villains who touch on our most hidden fears, messages both social and personal riding along the opened veins of its victims, there lies that one, singular fact that those who do not love horror cannot understand.

Horror is a lot of FUN!

Ghosts of Darkness does not break any new ground in the horror genre, and though the script has its witty moments, it is a very tried and true haunted house story full of demonic possession and fantastic monsters, with homage to all that has gone on before, and takes much from the tradition of Shirley Jackson’s A Haunting At Hill House.  A paranormal investigator and a psychic are asked to spend three days in a mysterious, haunted Scottish manor that has taken out every living person who has ever had the misfortune to visit.  Nothing at all new there in terms of plot, and it never delves deeper than this.  I do believe the film could have benefited from a stronger script, and there was ample room to explore themes of charlatan con artistry versus debunking science and all the demons that lurk in between.  But Ghosts of Darkness does not pretend to be a deep thinker’s film, and this is in some ways its strength.  It’s the perfect flick to sit in front of a big screen TV with a few friends and popcorn and beer and just flat out enjoy the ensuing carnage in the camp atmosphere that is in high contrast with the dour, brooding setting of an isolated country manor.

The movie concentrates heavily on the two main characters, paranormal researcher Jack Donovan, played by Michael Koltes and psychic Jonathan Blazer, played with Byronesque pomp by Paul Flannery.  Flannery’s portrayal of the buffoonish mess that is Blazer was a lot of fun to watch and he really should be charged with theft, as he did steal the bulk of the movie along with some of its best lines:

MYSTERIOUS MAN (played by Steve Weston):  They were killed by their own thirteen year old daughter, in an unprovoked attack…

JONATHAN BLAZER:  Tch…Teenagers.

The chemistry between the characters was played off quite well, though I found Koltes’ portrayal far too understated and would have preferred to see more fire in his performance, which would have upped the energy level of his character’s interactions with the incorrigible Blazer.  However, as often happens in movies of this type, the characters do take an ominous back seat to the fascinating setting behind them, a house which has plenty of personality of its own.  Richmond Manor, in the film, is a large, isolated place of gothic sensibility, and it’s clear that it has some ghosts of its own who, I suspect, were more than happy to play (It’s interesting to note that the cast and sound crew did experience odd sounds and interference during filming).  The fun romp of mayhem and haunted demonic influence blends so perfectly into the setting one has to wonder if there were shadows within the mad patterned wallpaper and late Edwardian psychedelic carpeting who helped production along. 

And honestly, whoever designed Jonathan Blazer’s Ouija board, I salute you.  Mediaeval pewter and ready to withstand whatever macabre horrors that are meant to travel through it–I really want one!

Production was stellar.  The film has a strange blockbuster vibe to it that is in heavy contrast to its material, and this added to the lighter atmosphere that permeated its attempts at darkness.  The musical score by Niall Mathewson complemented the mood of the film perfectly, and was an asset in its development of suspense and pathos between the characters.  There has been many an indie horror film that falls into the trap of forgetting the importance of a good musical score, and I’m very happy that Ghosts of Darkness is not one of them.  Atmospheric and never jarring, Mathewson’s score is ambitious and yet holds suitable restraint.  I’d love to see another production with his work behind it.

The house’s demons, of course, are eventually introduced, and they are wonderfully gory with an injection of silliness that fans of this genre of horror have come to expect.  I was quite impressed with the realism and experimentation done with the mangled bodies that our heroes had to contend with, and that infectious feeling of fun with buckets of blood is one that the initiated will adore. 

When the credits rolled, I felt a sense of sadness that the romp was over, and I do hope it isn’t.  I’d love to see an entire series based on the adventures of Jonathan Blazer and Jack Donovan, with each film evolving and expanding on the characters and taking on more challenging ideas with each one.  I want to see the duo take on every haunted Scottish manor they can find.  No one ever dies in horror films, they just transform.  I want to see them both standing breathless on the top of a blackened hill, the hem of their tattered coats blowing in an ill wind.  I want to see Jonathan Blazer munching on popcorn and making a mess while demons writhe in black ooze below.  Ghosts of Darkness was just too much fun to end at one film of 82 minutes. 

Please, director and writer David Ryan Keith, can we have some more?


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