Directed by: Troy Hart
Cast: Alicia Underwood, Justin Duncan, Kenny Gardner
Written and directed by Troy Hart, the supernatural thriller Ghost Note shows tremendous promise in terms of its unique plot and memorable villain–but, unfortunately, the film’s awkward script, off-kilter cinematography, and poor editing hinder what could have been a worthy addition to the horror genre.
The film centers on teenage Mallory (Underwood), a self-described Wiccan and all-around grump who is forced by her parents to spend a week at her grandmother’s house. While Mallory’s maudlin characteristics immediately grate on the nerves, her character grows in likeability once she and her friend Rodney (Duncan) begin to unlock the secret behind a mysterious guitar stashed away in the attic. Earlier in the film, Mallory had conducted a seance that unleashed the owner of the guitar, a long-dead blues musician with an evil streak, and now Mallory and Rodney must fight to end Eugene’s (Gardner) reign of terror as the supernatural entity attempts to control and kill off all of the other characters. It’s an engaging, fun, and at times unique scenario, and Eugene is a sadistic character with a powerful backstory (this background, involving an exorcism performed by Mallory’s grandfather, occurs in the exposition and remains one of the hallmark scenes of the film). Eugene, played with ghoulish menace by Gardner, has a fantastic look, and much credit goes to Ghost Note‘s makeup crew (Chelsea Lee and Rachel C. Wilson) and wardrobe department (Kelly Charbonneau) for helping to create such a memorable force. Hart should also be commended for having the courage and confidence to add a vibrant character to the already-long list of horror movie slashers out there. Although Ghost Note falters in many places, Eugene Burns is definitely a villain audiences will want to meet again.
The faults of the movie come with its clunky dialogue, awkward delivery by the two leads, and uneven editing. As portrayed by Underwood and Duncan, both Mallory and Rodney are noteworthy characters who audiences will most likely root for. But the dialogue between them is stilted and, at times, flat and unbelievable. In some scenes, the editing is jarring and confusing. For example, during a scene inside a barn, the camera cuts back and forth between Mallory, Rodney, and another character so quickly that the movement becomes difficult to follow and almost laughable; in another sequence, Mallory gets out of the shower and allows her towel to drop on the bedroom floor. Outside, we see Rodney looking up–but at what? The suggestion is that he can see a naked Mallory through the window, but audiences never see the shot from Rodney’s point of view. Then the film cuts to black before moving on to another scene. These are just two examples of a movie filled with shaky angles and confusing edits.
For every decent scene in the film, Troy Hart’s Ghost Note has a handful of stumbles and clumsy moments. To make matters a bit worse, the inconsistency increases as the picture reaches its climax, turning what could have been the film’s pinnacle into a bit of a jumble. However, Ghost Note still has a lot in its favor and is definitely recommended for slasher fans with a little bit of patience and a willingness to embrace a cool new villain with a memorable past. The special effects–led by Joshua Fread, Stacey Lea, Lee, and John Moore–add some gory touches, especially in the film’s final minutes. I believe Ghost Note is Hart’s first full-length feature, and with that in mind, I can only imagine just how far his talents will stretch given the next opportunity.