Ghosts of the Ozarks - New Release Review
Director: Matt Glass, Jordan Wayne Long
Starring: Thomas Hobson, Phil Morris, Tara Perry, David Arquette, Tim Blake Nelson
Written by: Sean Anthony Davis, Jordan Wayne Long, Tara Perry
Produced by: David Arquette, Matt Glass, Jordan Wayne Long, Michael May, Christina McCarty Arquette
Cinematography by: Matt Glass
Original Score by: Matt Glass
In post-Civil War Arkansas, a young doctor is mysteriously summoned to a remote town in the Ozarks only to discover that the utopian paradise is filled with secrets and surrounded by a menacing, supernatural presence.
An intriguing premise that cleverly intertwines elements of horror and traditional ingredients from the western genre but sadly it just sort of plods along without any real inciting incidents and a final twist that has been done before.
When the new doctor (Thomas Hobson) arrives into a small tightly knit Arkansas town he begins to discover that the town harbours a dark, supernatural secret. Sounds familiar doesn't it? That's because this kind of plot has been explored so many times before that it's almost impossible to bring anything new and exciting.
The town is surrounded by ghosts and everyone knows. Having experienced an incident with the ghosts himself, Dr. McCune is quick to try to find out more about the town and the unruly entities that live outside the surrounding walls.
The writers are clearly attempting to tell another type of story using ghosts as a sort of metaphor for the fear of the unknown and/or the fear of change. There's a moment in the film when Dr. McCune's Uncle Matthew (Phil Morris) claims "best not bother the common folk with the burden of their charitable keepers" A fantastic line that helps to sum up some of what the film is really about. Some of the most interesting elements of the entire film is when it deals with how the people are governed and that the town works as a prison for the inhabitants. The ghosts are used more or less as a device to keep everyone in check because as Matthew continues "they would be corrupted". Matthew is an interesting character. When we are first introduced to him he talks a lot about "purpose" which seemed to have some religious connotations but ultimately comes down to hierarchy and control. He revisits this subject in more detail during the scene above and also touches on some racial issues which lean towards the fact that he may be enjoying the power even more because of his minority status outside the town limits. Morris and Hobson have great chemistry and Morris is especially enthralling when he speaks about race and "us vs them" but it's in this scene that we begin to see him as a villain of sorts and the film shifts a little in a different direction.
The majority of the film deals with the interactions between the new doctor and the townsfolk, most of whom are fairly nondescript characters. The only one that really sticks out is Tim Blake Nelson's blind barman Torb, who is at least entertaining to watch and who I wanted to cheer for. The main downfall of the film is probably the pacing. There's almost zero tension built up in the early part of the film and I can't remember any scares either. While there is some nice imagery, it all just felt like a lengthy episode of an average television show. This is based on Matt Glass and Jordan Wayne Long's short film from 2016 and it feels like it definitely could work in a shorter format but for a feature film it just felt laborious to get through with an unfulfilling and insanely rushed ending that I honestly saw coming really early on.
- Gavin Logan
Signature Entertainment presents 'Ghosts of the Ozarks' on Digital Platforms May 23rd