I never played Ghost In The Graveyard as a kid. I’d never even heard of it until now actually, which is a shame because it looks like a fun hybrid of tag and hide and seek. Although it might not be so much fun when you play in an actual graveyard and one of your friends ends up dead at the bottom of an open grave.
That’s the starting point for writer/director Charlie Comparetto’s debut feature Ghost In The Graveyard. Like many films, it fast forwards from a childhood tragedy to the present day. One of the girls involved in that game, Sally (Kelli Berglund, Lab Rats) is returning home to Mt. Moriah. Her father Charlie (Jake Busey, Dead Ant, The Predator) is glad to see her back. Zoe (Olivia Larsen, The Last Halloween) leader of the local clique of “mean girls” isn’t so happy. Especially when she catches the eye of the boy she was after.
However petty high school issues quickly become the least of their worries. On the day Sally returns a young boy is murdered in the cemetery. Sally begins seeing the ghost of Martha, the girl who died again. People begin acting very oddly and talking about the end of days. Sally begins finding hints that she might not be who she thinks she is. And oddest of all, Zoe asks for her help.
Ghost In The Graveyard is an odd film. It starts off almost like an older made-for-TV teen ghost story before turning into a full-fledged religious conspiracy/horror film. I shouldn’t have been surprised, the clues are there from the start. The town is named after the mountain where God allegedly asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Everyone goes to a Catholic school that seems to exclusively teach about the Book of Revelations. Little hints like that.
For a first-time director, Comparetto actually handles this pretty well. Ghost In The Graveyard isn’t perfect, it suffers from a slow start and some clunky dialogue. But once it picks up it moves fast enough and sure enough that you don’t question what’s going on. At least not until the final voice over which sounds like it escaped from a faith-based drama. That should have been cut, it’s heavy-handed in just the way the rest of the film avoids being.
Ghost In The Graveyard features some very atmospheric camerawork, especially of the graveyard itself. Several of the last act’s night scenes reminded me of Frank LaLoggia’s underrated Fear No Evil. This might be intentional as it deals with potential Armageddon in a high school setting as well.
Rounding out the film’s pluses are good supporting performances by familiar faces such as Royce Johnson (Sgt. Brett Mahoney in several of Netflix’s Marvel Comics adaptations) as the town’s sheriff, Joseph D’Onofrio as his deputy and Maria Olsen (Krampus Origins, Marrtown) in another enjoyably sinister role.