Ghosts

A Ghost Story (2017)

This is not a horror film.  

Before you think it is, A Ghost Story is not a horror film, it is anything but. Although Ghost appears in the title, it’s rather a comic ghost that situates itself throughout the best part of this film.

One of the first things I noticed about A Ghost Story was the ratio setting of the screen, as David Lowery encloses the screen in a box awash with a vintage-esque filter. This was actually really effective and almost became a window in the relationship of C (Casey Affleck) and M. (Rooney Mara)

Through this lens, we see C and M living in their quaint suburban house, but what unfolds is a strange devoid between the two of them for some unspoken reason. Suddenly the idyllic relationship between C and M is thrown into the abyss as C is killed in a car crash. But this is when the Ghost comes into the story.

At the morgue, M identifies the body and leaves. But Lowery holds the scene for an extraordinary amount of time with the body and it rises becoming the titular ghost. He returns the house C and M lived in and watches M as she tries to deal with the passing of her husband. Lowery has a tendency to hold his shots for a significant amount of time and he continues this trend, holding the shot where M eats the pie. The stillness of this shot is incredibly, especially as the Ghost watches on mere metres away.

Instead of becoming a terrifying story about the ghost, it rather begins to transcend time as the ghost watches M leave the house and the new residents that move in after him. These moments pass by like seconds, as the Ghost watches them through piano lessons, Christmas and mealtimes.

Throughout the 90ish minutes of film, the film is mostly devoid of speech, but it rather about the movements of C as the Ghost. Lowery does lace the screen with beautiful and picturesque shots, including the shot where the house is torn down and the Ghost is stood there amongst the rubble, almost contemplating the destruction around him.

As well as being almost devoid of speech, A Ghost Story contains the perfect blend for the score, between the natural sounds of suburban life to the soundtrack and score becoming increasingly enchanting as the Ghost passes through the future in a matter of seconds.

During one of the new tenants, Lowery chose to have a lengthy nihilistic speech interjected into the film, which worked perfectly. Considering the Ghost glides through these peoples lives, almost as though nothing matters when all is said and done.

A Ghost Story isn’t packed to the gills with narrative, but it’s not about the narrative completely, but rather the interesting premise of this time-travelling ghost and essentially the message that time does continue when we are gone, regardless of what we can try to do to stop it. The performances displayed by Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck are brilliant, because it’s not about the speech and over-egged performance, but the nuanced movements that are displayed by the duo that makes the distance in the relationship believable.

A Ghost Story on a large scale worked, but I doubt it will be challenging for a spot of top film come the end of the year. But through the subtle performances and lengthy shots, David Lowery has really created a window into this relationship and the perception of time. Although A Ghost Story slipped into the realms of Interstellar towards the end, it managed to keep it’s footing. With the picturesque scenes throughout and enchanting music, A Ghost Story will definitely be a more memorable picture than most I’ve seen recently.

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Left to right: Courtney, Norman, Alvin, Neil and Mitch

ParaNorman (2012)

Set in the little American village of Blithe Hollow, resides a young boy named Norman. Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is not like other children, he can talk to ghosts, which is evident in the first minutes as he’s talking to his dead grandmother.

With the motto of ‘A Great Place To Hang’ Blithe Hollow seemingly likes to celebrate it’s witch hunting history. It becomes apparent that Norman is a bit of a social outcast, as he is seen talking to the ghosts as he walks to school, but as soon as he comes into contact with some adults, he is immediately shying away from them.

This is no different at school, Norman has ‘Freak’ scrawled on his locker and is pushed over before school. Alvin (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasses) shows up and makes it apparent he is the bully of the school, of course, Alvin is a stereotypical bully who is really dumb, to the extent where he can’t spell his own name. Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) who was across the hall scrubbing ‘Fatty’ off his locker, rushes up to Norman after school and when told that Norman likes to be alone he replies

“I like to be alone too.. Lets do it together!”

clearly not grasping Norman’s hints. After this, the two children are interrupted by the man, who is rather creepy, that was seen earlier looking at pictures of Norman, when he says he can talk to ghosts, like Norman, and that he needs to pass on his message before it’s too late. Mr. Prenderghast (voiced by John Goodman), ends up dying (wouldn’t you know it) and is left with the option of haunting Norman to  get his message across. Norman feeling uneasy about the situation, is comforted by his grandmother’s ghost which causes him to be proactive and to try and stop the Witches curse.

When reading at the graves, Alvin stops Norman is the process, after being interrupted during his dancing (which is rather hilarious) which causes the seven cursed zombies to rise from their graves. After finding out Norman has disappeared, Courtney (Anna Kendrick) goes to Neil’s house to look for him and encounters Mitch (Casey Affleck) and becomes all weak at the knees for Mitch, and end up looking for him. They find Norman and Alvin running away, but they also see one of the zombies, this spooks everyone and they speed off, leading the zombies to Blithe Hollow after them.

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The children try to find out the Witches burial place so they can stop the curse, but Norman has a flashback to the trial of the Agatha Prenderghast where he learns that Agatha (the witch) was just a little girl. Norman then confronts the zombies and learns that the zombies mean no harm, just simply want to be sent back to the grave and want the suffering to stop.

After receiving help from the Judge Hopkins zombie, Norman goes to the site of the witches grave, where Agatha is. Norman eventually wears down Agatha in her witch form and manages to talk to her as a little girl and learns that she just simply wanted to cause suffering to those who caused her so much suffering. She is coaxed into stopping her attacks on Blithe Hollow and she eventually leaves in peace, the same with the zombies.

One of my favourite comedy moments in the films is the guy by the vending machine, as he waits for his snacks he starts screaming and wondering whether to run or wait for his snacks, this coupled with just simple comedy effects, such as Alvin’s mannerisms and Neil’s lines. But not only this, but the tiny references plotted about, such as Neil wearing a hockey mask waiting for Norman.

It’s a change of pace for the usual children’s comedies, but it’s not too confusing as the story is quite apt for the run time, for me, it didn’t seem to drag on at any point. This film has an interesting change from the usual zombie films, as the zombies help rather than hinder the plans of Norman. A very easy watch for the older generations, but also a fun watch for all ages.

4/5