An American Ghost Story (2012) [Review]

Director: Derek Cole
Writer(s): Stephen Twardokus
Cast: Stephen Twardokus, Liesel Kopp, Wendy Haines, Cain Clifton, and Jon Gale
Rated: N/A
Sites: IMDb/trailer
Notes: Film is distributed by Breaking Glass Pictures

An American Ghost Story movie reviewI’m always in search of a horror movie that is actually scary. After seeing some of the press quotes for An American Ghost Story, I had high hopes that this one had some good chills in store. The film, which stars the film’s writer, Stephen Twardokus and is directed by Derek Cole, is an indie horror that sucks the viewer in from the beginning with its clean and stylish opening sequence which lets us know that they know what they’re doing both in front and behind the camera.

Twardokus plays Paul, an out of work writer looking to come up with the next great ghost story. He and his girlfriend Stella (Liesel Kopp) rent a house rumored to be haunted after a family that once lived there was murdered. Paul even goes as far as to convince Stella to decorate the deceased boy’s room the same way it was when he once inhabited it. It’s all innocent fun until Stella starts getting seriously creeped out and is forced to leave the house.

I was hoping for the serious scares, and the film certainly did give me a good amount of chills. There are some standard ghost scare tactics used, many of which we’ve seen in the classics, but also a few that are a bit more innovative. My only real complaint in the scare department is that they are always accompanied by the clashing burst of music that lets you know you need to be scared, as if you wouldn’t have been if the sound wasn’t there. That aspect made the scares feel a little cheapened, but aside from that the film really did have a consistently creepy tone that kept the suspense turned up high.

This was clearly a smaller production, with a very small cast, but honestly I was surprised with this film. One of the best scenes for me came later when Paul visits a former tenant (played by Wendy Haines), which was a great example of an incredibly effective scene without any bells and whistles. While you could tell some of the cast weren’t very experienced, everyone worked well together and fit the mood of the film. I was equally impressed with the production value behind the camera, from the techniques used with the effects and camera work, everything was pretty cool.

Finally I have to mention the “villain” as I suppose you could refer to it as, which is the figure donning a white sheet as seen on the DVD cover. I had mixed feelings about this character a bit. Part of me thought it was unique and cool, and honestly in a couple of scenes it was outright scary. But then at other times it came off as very silly. Overall though I have to lean in favor of it though just because it stands out and those few creepy scenes outweighed the more goofy ones. So An American Ghost Story may not have been the non-stop scarefest I was hoping for, but it still did surprise me with a lot of truly chilling moments and a lot of ambition.