I Am a Ghost (2012)
Directed by H.P. Mendoza
You'll have noticed a lack of reviews of late. I've been focusing on that other blog I do. The other reason for the lack of reviews is I've just been picky in what I've been watching. The horror screeners I get are full of poor men's attempt at what Hollywood wants. That's not what indie horror is.
H.P. Mendoza's I Am a Ghost is what indie horror is.
I have to be thankful I am part of a horror blogger inner circle that makes sure I see films like this. Thanks to Cortez the Killer at Planet of Terror (see his review) I feel reinvigorated in writing reviews for The Jaded Viewer. This film was a breath of fresh air and my fellow inner circler Chris at All Things Horror agrees (see his review here). It's what we as horror bloggers live for. Seeing something different, something unique and something with tons of risk that pays off big time.
Mendoza's I Am a Ghost is a slow burn ghost story that channels all the suspense of Kubrick film and releases it's madness Ti West style. You have to admire a film that throwsback to a cinematic style of vintaginess and still delivers. Add the fact the entire movie is centrally focused on one character, Emily (Anna Ishida) and in one setting, an old Victorian house and it's a bit risky endeavor. But that's why indie horror is a frontier. You'll never know if it will work if you don't try right?
I Am a Ghost plays with the viewer, forcing a WTF in every brief but cryptic scene until it slowly lets you in on the secrets that plague our dear Emily. Like a non linear jigsaw puzzle, all the pieces begin to make sense as the picture progresses (the eggs!!!) and once you see the entirety of the film, it's quite a sight to behold. It's full of chilling moments, superb acting and a twizzer twist on the ghost genre.
Emily, a troubled spirit, haunts her own house every day, wondering why she can't leave. With the help of Sylvia, a clairvoyant hired to rid the house of spirits, Emily is forced into a 'patient/therapist' relationship, uncovering disturbing mysteries about her past that may help her move on to 'the next place'.
I've slowly tried to give some leeway into the slow burn horror film. In both Ti West outings, I've been for and against it. It just depends on what's burning. In Mendoza's I Am a Ghost, the burn is full of dreamlike imagery of scenes of repetitiveness. Emily is a girl that seems oddly off. We see her repeat activities such as waking up, eating breakfast, getting groceries and cleaning. She's stuck in routine, but it seems her life in this Victorian house is not as it seems.The first quarter of the film is a slow burn to get us use to what's been happening before were thrown into this story. Whereas you'd be bored by a slow walker, a creaky floor or a few jump scares or whatever, the snapshots of Emily in "her life" and its loopiness is a montage of foggy delight. You're put in WTF mode and it draws you in.
In her parent's room, she hears a disembodied voice of Sylvia a medium (hired by the homeowners) who is trying to help her "to the light". She cannot see Sylvia, and vice versa. In a farside twist where the ghost doesn't know she is a ghost, Emily is TOLD she is a ghost and believes it. Read that sentence again because it's important.
Sylvia's conversations with Emily revolve around the nature of "closing", her memories, her death and her routine. If she leaves her parent's room she forgets everything. The movie is a cinematic darling in it plays with a stylized Del Toro-ness. There is a bit of shabby humor between Sylvia and Emily that breaks all the spooky tension. It's like modernity meets a stubborn old man stuck in time. The conversations slowly give us a glimpse of Emily's situation as does the imprints she has left in each room.
As the film concludes, a reveal puts all the pieces together and Emily confronts what she has dreaded the most.
Anna Ishida's performance is stellarly fantastic. To act by yourself, with a voiceover as your only partner must have been challenging and she does a great job in pulling it off. There would be a point where you'd think she'd have to be overmelodramatic but her subtlety in her performance was without a doubt what made it great.
Mendoza's story could easily draw comparisons to The Sixth Sense, The Others and The Innkeepers but that would be a disservice. What this film does is create a sense of dread, hopelessness and mystery and reveals a young woman's disturbing secret has not been eliminated in death. It's a journey through a photographic album of a life that was full of hardship and pain, where our instinctive nature to see a happy ending won't be answered. The very nature of the ghost story is that it is suppose to scare you. But here we are in a comforting role though the scares do come in a frenetic ending.
H.P. Mendoza is a talented filmmaker who clearly has pulled the best the old guard and the new guard have created and made a film that resembles the best of both. You will not be disappointed to see a film that has a new story to tell, a style all it's own and an eerie take on the what goes bump in the night.
Make sure you see this film.
A few scenes of the red stuff, nothing your grandma couldn't handle
The visual of Emily's secret...shivers
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
I Am a Ghost is playing the film festival circuit. Be sure to check out the official site, follow H.P. Mendoza on Vimeo and Twitter. He just wrote a film called Yes Were Open starring Parry Shen. I'm pretty psyched to see what other films Mr. Mendoza has in store, hopefully he continues to do a few more in this genre.
Check out the trailer below.