The Ghost Writer Dredges up Angry Demons From the Past

Horror and the arts go together like bananas and peanut butter. Those may not sound like good combinations at first, but if you give them a shot, you’ll be pleasantly surprised (and yes, I’m serious about bananas and peanut butter). The art/horror pairing goes at least as far back as The Phantom of the Opera, and it’s still going strong today in movies like Ghostwritten and Stopmotion. It’s a tried-and-true genre staple, so naturally, when I first heard about the psychological horror movie The Ghost Writer, I was instantly intrigued. The film sounded like a fun take on this classic combo, and I couldn’t wait to see what it would add to the time-honored legacy of art in horror.

The Ghost Writer was directed by Paul Wilkins, and it stars Luke Mably, Andrea Deck, Robert Portal, Matthew Jure, and Brendan Patricks. It tells the story of Gilliger, a struggling author trying to follow in his late father’s much more successful footsteps. One day, he decides to stow away at his old family home to help get the creative juices flowing, and while there, he comes across a hidden manuscript left behind by his father.

He realizes that it’s better than anything he can come up with, so he wants to plagiarize it and claim it as his own. However, doing so unleashes the demons of his father’s past, and he starts receiving bizarre visitations from Jane and Patrick, two mysterious figures who may or may not be all in his head.

I’m not going to beat around the bush. I really didn’t enjoy The Ghost Writer, and I found it to be a huge letdown on just about every level. For starters, Gilliger is pretty much the definition of middling. On the one hand, there’s nothing particularly bad about him. Actor Luke Mably does a decent job in the role, so Gilliger is believable enough that I never questioned if he was a real person or just an actor reading lines.

But on the other hand, he’s not all that good either. There’s nothing charming, memorable, or interesting about the guy, so the best I can say is that this character is decent. He doesn’t make the film any worse, but he also doesn’t make it any better.

Because of that, The Ghost Writer needed to really excel in at least one other area, but unfortunately, not much else about this movie was up to par either. Take Jane and Patrick, for example. These are by far the two most prominent side characters, so they could’ve picked up a lot of the slack for Gilliger. But instead, they just make the movie worse.

The Ghost Writer poster
Image courtesy of Dark Sky Films

Patrick is as generic and uninteresting as anyone in The Ghost Writer, so there’s not much to say about him. But Jane, on the other hand, actually had potential. Actress Andrea Deck did a great job imbuing this character with the kind of lively personality you can’t help but enjoy, so she could’ve been the movie’s saving grace.

But sadly, the writing really lets her down. When we first meet Jane, she shows up out of the blue, and she immediately starts acting like Gilliger knows her. However, he has no idea who this woman is, and that’s supposed to be the start of an intriguing mystery. We’re supposed to wonder who (or what) she is and why she’s acting that way, but in my opinion, the script way overdoes it. Her bizarre lines just go beyond interesting and become a bit too ridiculous for my tastes, so I stopped caring about this mystery pretty soon after meeting her.

Along similar lines, The Ghost Writer also shoots itself in the foot by letting us know fairly quickly that no matter what these two side characters do, Gilliger is never in any real danger. For instance, there’s a scene where they hang him, and right when he seems to die, the camera instantly switches to a shot of him waking up. Fake-outs like that happen a number of times, and once we catch on, it completely saps the story of any suspense or tension it might’ve had.

To be fair, not everything about this film is bad. There are some good twists and turns in the final act, and taken in isolation, the truth behind all these horrific goings-on is actually pretty interesting. In fact, if the rest of The Ghost Writer was better, I’d probably be praising these big reveals as a great way to cap it all off.

But by the time I got to those scenes, I simply didn’t care about any of it. The weak characters, the poorly handled mystery surrounding Jane, and the almost complete lack of real tension and suspense just killed any interest I may have had in this story, so when the movie finally got good, it was way too little way too late. The entire thing had become nothing more than visual noise by that point, and nothing short of a cinematic miracle could’ve brought me back on board.

So if you’re looking for some good new horror to watch, I’m sad to say that I wouldn’t recommend The Ghost Writer. There’s very little here that’s going to be worth your while, so unless you’re just dying to see this film, you’re much better off giving it a pass.

The Ghost Writer was released on VOD on February 13.

Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong movie fan, and his favorite genres are horror, superheroes, and giant monsters. You can find him on Twitter @jpnunezhorror.

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