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An American Ghost Story – 6

Director – Derek Cole

Cast – Stephen Twardokus, Liesel Kopp, Jon Gale, Wendy Haines

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

An American Ghost Story is one of those flicks that I came across randomly and decided it had a cool enough title for me to give it a watch. Supernatural films may just be my favorite horror sub-genre, and because of that I am on an ever-long search for new spooky experiences. From the get-go it was quite obvious that this flick came with a pretty low budget, but by the time the end credits rolled none of that mattered. I left this 95 minute experience in unbelief after experiencing the most chills/goosebumps any film has given me this year, and while this is not a spectacular film it definitely achieved what it set out to do…scare the viewer.

Desperately seeking accomplishment for his writing talents, Paul rents and moves into a home that is rumored to be haunted, putting his life and his relationship in grave danger as he successfully finds the haunting story he is looking for.

I really did not know what to expect while going into this experience, I was unaware of its low ratings on IMDb and its micro budget, and in the end none of that mattered. When I left this film I had experienced some of the best horror and chills I had seen in a very long time, and this underrated piece put many theatrically released horror films to shame. It has its flaws, which come naturally due to its miniscule budget and lack of experience form its filmmakers, but when it mattered most the film succeeded where over 90% of modern day horror films fail…it scared me.

Lead actor Stephen Twardokus wrote the film, and he does not take long in allowing the horror to hit the screen. We see our first action about 20 minutes in, and while it was simple in nature it was definitely effective. The horror mostly involves the entity employing inanimate objects to terrorize Paul and his girlfriend, which includes a scene that I found to be a ripoff of a certain scene in Paranormal Activity 2, but it was effective nonetheless. Soon after this (pseudo spoiler approaching) Paul’s girlfriend decides she has had enough of the haunting and bails on him, and that is when the horror really kicks into high gear. Him being alone in the home upped the ante and from the 20-40 minute mark there were plenty of good chills. I enjoyed seeing so many good chills early on, and they never really relented after that. In fact, the scares that hit the screen after this initial onslaught were supremely scary and some of the best I’ve seen all year. The film’s climax may come off a bit anti-climactic to some, and it honestly surprised me. I was not paying attention to the runtime at this point and when the film ended I was a bit bewildered until I realized that 90 minutes had already passed.

I am glad that Twardokus wrote in plenty of scares for me to enjoy, but Derek Cole’s direction equally sold them. He accomplishes this by sticking to the basics and focusing on atmosphere to sell his film, and everything else just fell into place. The look of the home was spooky, and because Paul was intentionally trying to see paranormal phenomena he purposely left the lights off when he would hear a creepy noise and investigate it – an idea I give props to Twardokus for. These long and drawn out scenes set up the film’s numerous high quality scares, and Cole’s idea to cut the musical score at just the right time left me sitting in silent anguish as 15 seconds, then 30 seconds, then 60 seconds went by as I watched Paul clear a dark room with his crappy flashlight and then find the supernatural activity he was looking for. Eventually when the horror manifests it provides scares that I was not expecting to see in this film but most definitely appreciated. I really do not have any major balks against the flick, although I will say that the acting performances, while not horrible, were not very good either. Considering the film’s low budget I did not fault it for the performances, especially since they were not horrible, but simply lacking emotion when it would have helped a bit. The focus of the film is the horror and the scares it provides, and the scares are what sold me and left me really appreciating this low budget effort. Some may find them a bit cliché as they are reminiscent of horror from decades ago, but for avid fans of the genre like me they were a nice touch that I was glad to see on the modern day screen.

Overall, An American Ghost Story is a film I really enjoyed and would watch again for its scares alone. It does have its faults and will not please everyone due to its low budget, but if you can look past simple things and watch this for the horror I think you will be just as surprised as I was at how spooky this is. Check it out.

Rating: 6/10

…Additional Stills…

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