Friday, September 28, 2012

Beware of Any Screenwriter Looking to Revive the Western Genre: "The Ghosts of Edendale" (2004)



While I am normally hesitant about viewing any horror film shot on video (I am a victim of "Ax 'Em" and "Asylum of Terror"), writer/director Stefan Avalos delivers a nice, creepy little effort.

Former model Rachel (Paula Ficara) and former newspaper writer Kevin (Stephen Wastell) move from New York to Hollywood with dreams of screenwriting success. They get lucky and move into a house abandoned by a couple who decided to up and become missionaries, leaving Rachel and Kevin most of their stuff. Rachel and Kevin move onto an impossibly steep hilled street called Edendale. All the neighbors are in the film business, and the hill itself was once the ranch property of silent film legend Tom Mix.

Rachel and Kevin have trouble writing, and Rachel takes a five day modeling shoot to make ends meet. When Rachel comes back, Kevin has noticeably changed. His demeanor is different, and he is pounding out a western script that has all the neighbors buzzing. Rachel still cannot write, and seeing strange beings and phantoms in her new home certainly does not help either. Is she finally having another breakdown, or is it the hill?

While shot on video, the technical aspects of "The Ghosts of Edendale" are impressive. The sound is great, and the editing is clean. Avalos gives himself plenty of camera coverage, and is able to pick and choose from different shots without holding one angle too long. Scott Hale's video based special effects are above average. When it comes to most video effects, it seems the more ambitious they are, the less successful they are. However, the effects always work. The first one involving a child hiding in a closet scared me to death, and watching these ghosts move in and out of frame at unexpected times would also freak me out.

The film revolves around Ficara, and she is both beautiful and sympathetic. Wastell does a good job of changing without making the transformation too hurried (like Nicholson in "The Shining"), and he does a good job when he is plain old Kevin, and a good job when he is weird Kevin.

Avalos' script is as old as the Hollywood Hills, however. I have seen this exact same type of "is it all in her head?" ghost story dozens of times. The film is refreshingly free of gore and violence, and this definitely heightens the suspense. There are some exterior shots in this film that have a lovely film look to them, Lukas Ettlin's photography is right on.

When you think of some shot on video films, you think of one set-up, barely audible, and badly lit. "The Ghosts of Edendale" raises the bar of video horror, and succeeds. (* * * *) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: The Ghosts of Edendale