February 3rd, 2022
MOVIE: GHOSTS OF THE OZARKS
STARRING: THOMAS HOBSON, PHIL MORRIS, TARA PERRY, TIM BLAKE NELSON, ANGELA BETTIS, DAVID ARQUETTE
DIRECTED BY: MATT GLASS, JORDAN WAYNE LONG
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
It makes me feel old but we’ve arrived at a moment where M. Night Shyamalan’s films have inspired the work of the next generation of directors. That’s not a bad thing, especially when you think about how Shyamalan’s work was influenced by the likes of Hitchcock and Spielberg, so he’s just doing what they did, and is now passing the torch. I mention that because Ghosts of the Ozarks is a new independent horror film that unflinchingly takes from Shyamalan’s The Village, but unlike having the heft of a major studio, or the budget to expand on the production, directors Matt Glass and Jordan Wayne Long have found a way to turn out a surprisingly eerie horror film. Ghosts of the Ozarks might be classified as new-age folk horror, with an impressive cast of character actors converging on this isolated western village, while a collection of demon creatures lurk beyond the fenced in town. Ghosts of the Ozarks is not groundbreaking or ushering a new kind of terror, but it does have an impressive premise, worthy of appreciation in the wealth of knowledge of the genre, making it an independent horror film worthy enough to seek out.
The setting is post-Civil War Arkansas, where doctor James McCune (Thomas Hobson) has been summoned by his uncle Matthew McCune (Phil Morris) to become the town doctor in his utopian village in the Ozarks. During his travels he witnesses a mysterious red fog rolling in the woods and a weary traveler disappears in the night. He’s not deterred from helping the town, which includes a spectacular supporting cast of characters- Tim Blake Nelson as Torb, the blind owner of the local saloon, Angela Bettis as his wife Lucille, David Arquette as Douglas the local photographer, and Annie (Tara Perry) who is often in charge of keeping things safe outside the walls. At first the town seems quaint and happy, but when weird things happen to members of the community, the tales of evil spirits begin to seem more than just myth.
As far as a production design goes, Ghosts of the Ozarks succeeds at creating the village, while the screenplay from Tara Perry, Sean Anthony Davis, and Jordan Wayne Perry has an exact idea of who and how these characters should be used. Although the pacing becomes a bit mundane and the narrative itself is almost too similar to The Village, I was instantly won over by Bettis and Tim Blake Nelson singing a duet of an old gospel diddy. Even Arquette lends his classic nervous and curious characteristics to the table, which becomes a solid way to elevate any kind of horror film. Undoubtedly without these character actors Ghosts of the Ozarks would have suffered more, but the areas where the narrative struggles are in the pacing, bits of wooden acting, and a lower budget which forces artists into different choices.
The impressive factor arrives in the direction of Glass and Long, doing the best possible with the material they have, and adapting what was originally a short film. There’s obviously an appreciation for folk horror in the soil of a story like this and that history is evident in a narrative that is similar to the likes of Midsommar, The Village, and classics like The Wicker Man. Ghosts of the Ozarks has its own stamp on folk horror, creating mystery ghost creatures that reminded me of the monsters in The NeverEnding Story II, but also creating its own unique spirit with the ever-present red fog.
It’s an odd place to be in rating a movie like Ghosts of the Ozarks. It’s working on a different independent budget than most pieces of cinema and doing more with what it has available. The bottom line, is I’m looking forward to what Matt Glass, Tara Perry, and Jordan Wayne Perry come up with next. This film might be too much of a copy, even though most movies are taking from other references today anyway, but at least we can appreciate new artists putting their own stamp on independent horror. Ghosts of the Ozarks is not just honoring the past. It’s building its own path.
THE GHOSTS OF THE OZARKS IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND AVAILABLE ON DEMAND FEBRUARY 4TH, 2022
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady