Ghost Light (2018)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on June 28, 2019 @

Ghost Light flickers and shines.

The film's title comes from the light that theaters kept on all the time to keep the curse of the play Macbeth away. When the curse was active the light went off.

What activates the curse is when one mentions the name "Macbeth" unless it's in the play performed on stage. Beware actors and staff.

Ghost Light is very loosely identified in the horror genre, but people looking for horror will be disappointed. Those looking for atmosphere, characterization, and wisps of humor and charm should be favorably impressed.

Within the first five minutes of most indie movies, one can tell whether a movie offers promise. Ghost Light not only offers promise, it delivers. The light is on.

Ghost Light begins with an English voice intoning about Macbeth, the Shakespearean play written over 400 years ago, and the curse that it burgeoned. Then we see a bus in the distance driving alone on the open road, accompanied by bold string music. [The omnipresent music and sound by composer Ed Grenga almost becomes a character.]

The bus stops after entering the isolated, rural location of the Riverside Lodge & Theater. A touring group of summer stock performers and staff exits the bus. They are delighted when they enter the quaint theater. But there are dilemmas and fears to face. There's pride and hysteria in the future. Is possession horrifying?

The cast is first-rate, especially the recognizable veteran actors. Roger Bart is personable and credible as the director. Carol Kane - the Emmy-winning actress on television's Taxi - is the sometimes addled actress who portrays the Third Witch, and Cary Elwes portrays the pompous leading man, who undergoes transformation.

The couple who mock the curse are played by Tom Riley and Shannyn Sossamon. All the characters are vulnerable, with their identities up for grabs.

The screenplay by John Stimpson and Geoffrey Taylor is clever. [Stimpson also ably directed and edited the movie.]

The screenplay has the characters making allusions to the world of acting that gives the film a resonance. The leading man likes to tell the story of his being called back four times to try out for a role in Top Gun (1986). His unfaithful wife relates that he's been a soap opera star for 17 years, making money. So much for acting.

The character who now plays the Third Witch tells that she once got raves in London playing the First Witch. And an old, white-haired actor says he learned how to fall by listening to the stunt double for Laurence Olivier.

Ghost Light is a heady concoction of whimsy and dread.

It keeps the light aglow and the cauldron simmering.

© 2000-2019 Tony Macklin