Ghost Light (2021) Review
According to Playbill, “A ghost light is a single bulb left burning whenever a theatre is dark. Some argue that its function is to chase away mischievous spirits; others insist it lights the way for the ghosts that are said to inhabit virtually every theatre, keeping them happy and contented. Either way, that light ensures that no one takes an accidental tumble off the stage.”
Ghost Light is also a theatre set horror thriller from director Gabriel Saint (Speed Demons, American Psychopath) and co-writer Derrick Denicola. We’ve had several genre films involving the stage lately, from The Lurker to Elodie to The Last Laugh. Is this bound for a long run, or should it have folded in rehearsals?
Virginia (Maddisyn Carter, The 27 Club, Beverly Hills Ghost) is an actress who has been having nightmares and sleepwalking. The nightmares seem to involve a murder that happened ten years previously and that we witnessed in the prologue. Joseph (Will Rothhaar, Division 19, Battle: Los Angeles) works as a ride-share driver. When they first meet, she accuses him of stealing packages from her apartment building but ends up asking him out.
Afflicted by some kind of obsession at first sight, Joseph decides to put together a play to impress her and keep her in L.A. Of course he picks the theatre we saw in the prologue, The Rogue. Which, as it turns out, was the sight of multiple murders.
Ghost Light’s opening murder should have told me what I was in for. We see an actress in her dressing room. Cut to opening credits. We see a menacing figure in the darkness. Cut to more credits. Now the actress is on stage and bleeding. We repeat this with her a bit bloodier and her robe a bit more open each time. The end result is a protracted sequence where we never see the killer hit her, or see the wounds she’s bleeding from. But in a show of the director’s priorities, we repeatedly see her breasts.
The film tries to build suspense with a subplot involving Detectives Jones (Sallieu Sesay, End of the World, Hornet) and Branton (Noelle Perris, Plaguers, Princess of Mars) who suspect Joseph of committing an assault. But the questioning scenes are tedious, as is their breaking into his house looking for evidence.
Pretty much everyone mistrusts Joseph, actually. The two friends she’s with when she meets him warn her from the start. But Virginia is smitten despite his obvious creepiness. Her roommate even says he’ll kill her in the haunted theatre, he’s that obvious.
And we do know the theatre is haunted, the ghost of the murder victim comes back to show us her breasts again. To be fair, they are nice, but that isn’t the kind of thrills Ghost Light is supposed to be delivering. We have to wait until nearly forty-five minutes into the seventy-minute film before we get a horribly staged fight and a murder by sledgehammer.
Ghost Light could have been an enjoyable film if it wasn’t so slow paced and talky. Or if the script had explained a few details and made a bit more sense. Things like what exactly does she see in him that makes her ignore all her friends? Does he keep trying to choke himself as a suicide attempt, or is it some kind of turn on, like the one that killed Michael Hutchence and David Carradine?
And what was the end all about? Did Joseph go totally insane? Was he the original killer? Was he possessed by the ghost? Or just hypnotized by her ghostly boo-bies? (You knew I was going to make that joke eventually).
Ghost Light is available to stream via Gravitas Ventures. You’ll probably have a better time reading the rest of that article about ghost lights, though.