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A Ghost Waits (2020) Review

Normally, a black and white rom-com with an indie rock soundtrack would not be something I’d be jumping to review. But A Ghost Waits is a little different. The couple are a handyman renovating a rental property and the ghost whose purpose is to keep it empty. Could there possibly be a more unlikely pairing?

A Ghost Waits opens with what would usually be the climax of a horror film. A terrified family being driven from their home by a ghost. That ghost is Muriel (Natalie Walker, Search Party) who has been tasked by her boss, (yes, ghosts have bosses and assignments), Ms. Henry (Amanda Miller, A Grave Caller, Uberzombiefrau) with keeping empty.

A Ghost Waits Scary Muriel

The building’s earthly owner hires Jack (MacLeod Andrews, They Look Like People, They’re Inside) to fix it up so he can rent it out. And while he’s at it, can he figure out why everyone breaks their lease and leaves? We know that reason is, of course, Muriel, and soon Jack will too.

First time director Adam Stovall and co-writer MacLeod Andrews have taken an idea that we’ve seen before in horror films such as The Girl on the Third Floor and crossed it with Beetlejuice’s bureaucratic afterlife. Then they’ve taken it in an entirely different direction from what was expected.

Of course Muriel tries to drive Jack out with the usual moving objects, nightmares and the most passive-aggressive warning in genre history, “I like your singing. You should do it elsewhere!”. But Jack has nowhere else to go. Ironically, his apartment is being worked on, fumigated actually.

A Ghost Waits Muriel Smiles at Jack

And just as Muriel is a ghost, though she prefers the term spectral agent, Jack has been ghosted by his friends. Nobody will return his calls looking for a place to crash, he’s as much a lost soul as she is. One is dead, the other, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, might as well be. A Ghost Waits, capitalizes on that common ground to build the bond between them.

Of course a love story must have its obstacles such as unhappy bosses and Rosie (Sydney Vollmer, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile). She’s the replacement ghost, excuse me, spectral agent sent to drive Jack out. Of course, that’s not the biggest obstacle they face. Short of a reanimation spell, there’s only one way for someone from this world and the next to be together.

With its monochrome cinematography, A Ghost Waits also evokes the 1947 film The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. However, its ending would not work with modern audiences, and deservedly so. This means the film has a major conflict to resolve going into the final act. It’s also going to be conflicting and potentially triggering to some viewers as well.

A Ghost Waits Muriel and Rosie

I found it to be the right ending for the film, and I really can’t imagine it being satisfying with a different resolution. It’s also done with the proper tone, avoiding being melodramatic or lapsing into bad taste. The film’s first time writer and director deserve a lot of credit for pulling it off so well. Andrews also deserves the best actor awards he picked up on the film’s festival run.

Funny, insightful, and at times touching, A Ghost Waits was a lot more entertaining than I expected. The film’s only real flaw is it takes a bit too long to get going. Watching Jack working on the apartment and talking to himself got on my nerves rather fast.

A Ghost Waits will premiere on Arrow’s streaming service February 1st in the US, Canada and the UK. There’s no word on release dates for other formats, but they’ll probably be announced on Arrow’s website and Facebook page or the film’s website in the near future.

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