REVIEW: The Spiritualist
– By Zombie Rob
Now then, in this country we’re jolly good at ghost stories. We have the environment with our rich and long, long histories, wonderfully rambling old houses full of shadows and secrets, ancestral lineages stretching back to dark, feudal times when horrific acts of horror seem almost commonplace within our millenia-long past. And now we have The Spiritualist which promised to return to our cinematic tradition of the ghost story, back-dropped with one of those aforementioned rambling residences full of shadows and secrets.
Our heroine, Laura, has a pretty shitty family with a mother as mad as cheese and a father that copes with all his marital tribulations by ploughing the staff. Until he gets found out by his insane missus however, whereupon he faces up to his wrongs & responsibilities by effing off without a further word or backward glance. The mother has a rare but very high impact illness, the main symptoms of which are saying dreadfully cruel things to fragile daughters and screaming swear words – like dementia and Tourette’s but far more hurtful and unpleasant.
Eventually, mum dies, leaving the house to Laura but also bestowing an overwhelming burden of guilt and self-loathing. Nightmares plague the poor lass but with time and support, she’ll of course be able to get the professional help she needs. There’s medications and therapies proven to work with grief so all is not lost. I tell ya what I definitely wouldn’t do, I wouldn’t get a spiritualist in to conduct a harrowing seance which could only result in more damage to Laura’s already egg-shell psyche. That would be reckless, absurd, stupid even. Oh hang on, who’s that at the ruddy door now…..??
What we have here is a troubling mish-mash of conflicts. The location is wonderful, atmospheric and seething with both beauty and menace but it raises more questions than it answers. How did this regular and spectacularly disfunctional family end up owning one of the most stately of stately homes in the country, where’s the exposition and background here?
The acting runs the gamut from scene chewingly, poo-in-your-hand MENTAL (Julie T Wallace – yes, that Julie T Wallace, the She Devil!!!), through absorbing and convincing, finishing at GCSE drama lunchtime-workshop level of shite, all of which is hardly helped by an awful script. Ian Reddington, Jasmyn Banks and Judson Vaughan all obviously have ability, that isn’t in question but if the words aren’t there, how can the film possibly benefit from this potential?
The camera work offers a great opening tracking shot, the seance scene is accomplished use of the steady cam – but then there’s other scenes where the camera work is static, even lazy which all adds up to a very frustrating experience for the audience. There’s a good story and film in here somewhere but there’s just too many downsides for it to be a strong final product.