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Review: SPIRITS IN THE DARK (2019)

The Hungarian film SPIRITS IN THE DARK is almost a one-man show from writer/director/star József Gallai (THE POLTERGEIST DIARIES, THE SURREAL PROJECT). The truly odd thing however is that despite being the star he’s on-screen for less than 15 minutes. None of the rest of the cast has even 5 minutes. This makes for an unusual film that’s equal parts effective and frustrating.

Shot in a mix of conventional cinematography and first-person point of view footage shot by Gil (József Gallai), Gil is a widower who lost his wife and child under mysterious circumstances. One day his friend Olly (Peter Cosgrove, CANNIBAL FARM, REIGN OF CHAOS) sends him footage of what appears to be the ghost of a woman. That and a necklace much like his wife wore. He goes looking for the abandoned building where it was filmed and finds more than he expected.

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SPIRITS IN THE DARK isn’t a found footage film although it often resembles one. It also resembles an urban exploration video a lot of the time. Much of the film is composed of the footage Gil shoots as he pokes around the abandoned Russian facility the footage came from. There’s also very little dialogue apart from Gil’s voiceovers.

The resulting footage can be creepy, but it’s also often very dull, especially as it’s nearly 40 minutes into the film’s 70-minute run time before things start getting weird. Once it does, the dark and deserted buildings are a perfect setting for the escalating events. The film’s exteriors are filled with ominous, foggy landscapes that are every bit as unsettling. Against this backdrop and the lack of dialogue, Gergö Elekes (MOTH, BODOM) score manages to stand out and effectively raise the viewer’s level of unease

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The time it takes to get going, and the long stretches composed of footage of deserted buildings, will turn some people off. It’s not even like these are extraordinary buildings with interesting architecture. They’re about as plain as it gets. If you like found footage, then you’ll have a better chance of enjoying this. Those that do make it through the first half should enjoy the creepy conclusion.

If you like very slow burns and/or found footage, then SPIRITS IN THE DARK should keep your attention. Others may be reaching for the fast-forward.

Gallai says he’s close to a deal for US distribution. You can check for updates on the SPIRITS IN THE DARK Facebook page.

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