A Ryan Callaway Halloween Double Feature : “The Ghost In The Darkness”

Posted: October 30, 2019 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

So, this is kind of interesting — New Jersey microbudget auetuer Ryan Callaway used to swear up and down that he’d never touch the “found footage” sub-genre, and yet here we are, in late 2019, and apparently “never say never” is the order of the day because his latest, The Ghost In The Darkness, fits that beleaguered category to the proverbial “T.” So the question we have to ask ourselves, I suppose, is : now that he’s “gone there” — should he have?

You can decide for yourself if you’ve got Amazon Prime, since this has recently been made available for streaming there, but if you want my opinion (which I’ll take as a given seeing as how you’re visiting this site and all), I’d say that based on just over an hour of evidence (which qualifies this as a “short” by Callaway standards),  the necessary restrictions imposed upon a production by established “hand-held horror” tropes not only go some way toward obfuscating the shortcomings inherent in a flick such of this (hey, if approached properly, they always do), they also reign in some of this particular writer/director’s excesses and make for a tighter, more focused — and therefore more effective — effort. Which is maybe just my polite way of saying he should have done something like this a long time ago.

In the spirit of keeping things relatively “spoiler-free,” the general gist here is that a semi-popular YouTube “star” named Morgan (portrayed in reasonably convincing fashion by an actress who bills herself only as Jacq) has come into possession of some footage that purportedly shows a murder in woods. She does the right thing by taking this combustible material to the cops first, but when they don’t step up to the plate in timely fashion she decides to take matters into her own hands — only to find that there is much more going on here than initially expected and, in typical Callaway fashion, that “much more” is of the supernatural variety. Or sure looks like it is, at any rate.

The cast here is less sprawling than we’re used to from our guy Ryan, and every character serves a function reasonably central to advancing the plot, but it’s true that the actors, who are a mix of Callaway ensemble veterans (Georgette Vaillancourt, Hiram Ortiz, Madeline Lupi) and new faces (Kailee McGuire, Marquis Hayes, Genevieve Tarrant, the aforementioned Jacq), offer up performances of wildly varying quality, so be as prepared for that sort of thing as you’re used to seeing in this sort of thing — assuming, of course, that you’re a seasoned viewer of zero-budget horror in the first place. If not, well — you may be in for a trickier time, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find anything of value in this one.

All that being said, of course your mileage is going to vary here depending on how many allowances you’re willing to make for extremely limited resources. “Found footage” is a natural for anyone looking to slip a mask over their film’s lack of effects (practical or CGI), and Callaway has clearly done his homework in that regard, and ditto when it comes to his story pacing, cinematography, and location use. He’s been in this game long enough to know what works and what doesn’t, and going “hand-held” not only allows him to showcase his skills in a new venue, it also makes plain that the lessons he’s learned in more “traditional” film-making put him well ahead of many of his contemporaries toiling away in this always-crowded field. I won’t name any names, but — there are a number of would-be Oren Pelis who would do well to watch this thing, and to take detailed notes while doing so.

So, yeah — we’ve got ourselves more than a little bit of a winner here. As always, Callaway pushes against the limits of how tightly he can crowd up this production, but he does so with full knowledge of precisely how much he should try getting away with, and errs just on the side of caution and practicality. The end result is a film that might dearly like to have a broader, more expansive scope than it does, but plays it smart and sticks with what it has the resources to credibly pull off instead.

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Comments
  1. Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

    Reblogged this on Through the Shattered Lens.

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