Movie Review : An American Ghost Story (2012)

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Also known as its original title, Revenant, the story follows struggling writer Paul Anderson (Stephen Twardokus) and his girlfriend Stella (Liesel Kopp) as they move into a house that is rumored to be haunted. Paul is hoping to write a book about the house and his paranormal experiences therein. While quiet and unassuming at first, they soon realize the stories about the house are true. Strange things begin to happen and they soon find they are not alone, something evil resides in the house with them.

With the original title being changed from Revenant to An American Ghost Story, I can’t help but feel like they are trying to cash in on the recent box office success of The Conjuring. The film seems like a mixture of Sinister, Poltergeist, and Paranormal Activity. While slow going at first, the first scare is something we’ve seen a thousand times. You all know the drill, you walk into the kitchen and a cupboard opens up on its own. Then more, and suddenly every cupboard and drawer in the kitchen is open. Throw in a chair sliding across the room and you have the start of a predictably generic ghost story.

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The entire movie felt too slow. I was constantly waiting for something to happen in between the meaningless and sometimes boring dialogue, and when it did I thought to myself, that can’t be it, it’s building toward something. There are better scares to come. I waited and I waited, and before I knew it, the end credits were rolling.

While the film played on things we’ve all seen before, I didn’t hate everything about it. There were rare scenes that I thought were great ideas, I just didn’t feel like they were executed very well. One in particular, Stella had already moved out after the kitchen scene, being overly dramatic (Liesel’s acting and her character being terrified) about her “cupboard and chair” experience, even initially knowing she was moving into a haunted house, Paul is asleep in bed and stirs from sleep to clearly find a full bodied entity under the sheet with him. As he attempts to touch the body that is laying next to him, the head clearly turns toward him. The director uses this a couple of times throughout the film. There is something menacing and terrifying about seeing the head, under a sheet, suddenly dart in the direction you are standing, knowing it is looking right at you. While I really liked this idea, and thought it was one of the better and original ideas implemented, the director overdid it. The sheet over the ghost thing got tired after the first few times, especially at the end when Paul wanders around the house trying to find the ghost by holding a sheet and randomly covering and swirling it around open spaces, until it actually comes into contact with the entity. And this is where we find out that the ghost actually has some kind of “powers” and is able to push objects and grab Paul without actually touching them.

aags-cap-3The empty dialogue and banter between characters, clearly there to add depth to the characters and make us care about their situation, I felt did not work at all and just fell flat. The acting was not strong enough to convey any genuine emotion or emphasis on their characters. Some of the best acting came from Wendy Haines, playing Sue, a former tenant of the house who Paul interviewed about her experiences in the house.

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To no surprise, the ending was about as predictable as the rest of the film, when once again we see the sheet rise out of the suitcase, after Paul finally moves out of the house.

All in all I would say this movie was quite lackluster and somewhat boring, from the generic and predictable storyline and one dimensional characters, to the acting, the score, and the execution of the director. The movie is slated for release on DVD on August 20, 2013.

My grade for this film: D


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