Ghost Light (2019)
Director: John Stimpson
Performers: Cary Elwes, Shannyn Sossamon, Danielle Campbell, and Tom Riley
Ghost Light (2018) is a dark comedy worth seeing for its memorable characters, great ensemble cast, and an amazing premise. If you know anything about theater, you know that William Shakespeare’s classic MacBeth is considered a cursed play. Actors for years have avoided saying the Scottish Play’s name directly for fear of the dreaded curse. This film takes that premise and runs, with brilliant moments ranging from dark and dreadful to situational comedy.
The title comes from the name for the light kept burning on stage when everything else is dark, specifically to ward off ghosts and bad luck. It’s just one more superstition that director John Stimpson uses to great effect. Whether you’re a theater person or just like ghosts, this is definitely a must-see.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
Cary Elwes stars as Alex Pankhurst, a soap opera star trying his hand at stage performance with melodramatic results. His wife, Liz Beth Stevens, played by Shannyn Sossamon in a riveting performance, is an actress tired of her husband. She drowns her sorrows in drink and an affair with the arrogant young rake and stagehand and supporting actor Thomas (Tom Riley). Thomas and Liz Beth enjoy making fun of the other actors, and Thomas longs for recognition. His behavior though keeps anyone from wanting to cast him in a lead role. He gets more than he bargained for when he brags about not believing in the curse and screams Macbeth’s name on the empty stage for Liz Beth’s amusement.
What follows is a descent into madness and hauntings as Liz Beth, slated to play Lady Macbeth, begins seeing blood on her hands. Slowly, she descends into madness and becomes obsessed with convincing Thomas to murder her husband and take his place on stage. Thomas is also cursed and, losing sleep and his grip on reality after repeated hauntings, can’t quite manage to please her. He tries murder of course, but he’s more of a showoff than an actual murderer. Thomas’ attempts are hilarious, and Alex’s genuine optimism and obliviousness to the whole thing only make it funnier. The hauntings are genuinely spooky and unnerving – It’s not what I expected at all, but I liked it! By the end, the colorful cast are beset by spirits, and it’s a testament to the actors that the scenes are fully investing. Brilliant performances carry this throughout, and the ghosts only make it better. Production and sound quality are great, and some of the scenes are genuinely unsettling. This movie doesn’t rely on CGI much, but it’s not that great when it is used. However, I noticed it only in one or two places, which is great for a small production company. I don’t think it’ll be a distraction. Overall, this is a fun one to add to your watch list. D