Ghosts and women are drawn to each other, that’s a solid Wiki fact (source needed). Something about an other worldly love that transcends all boundaries sends shivers down her spine, literally because that dude’s cold dead.
This is a tale we’ve seen over and over again in movies about widows and roguish ghost sea captains, in Star Trek: The Good One, in Baywatch (as previously discussed), in that Donald Trump classic and in, well, ‘Ghost’.
Girls love them some incorporeal D. And this isn’t a Ray ‘Ghostbuster’ moment played for laughs – these stories are serious as a heart attack…and then the heart attack victim haunts/seduces a living woman.
Same is the case in this strange and wild doozy of a film, ‘The Carpenter’.
Our Main, Alice, has the most polite nervous breakdown by boredly walking around her apartment before carefully and methodically cutting up one of her husband’s suits. He comes home and is mildly upset. Off to the funny farm with you, you basket-case!
After an apparent hospitalization of weeks, she’s feeling better and her husband has bought them a new house in the country because making huge life decisions without consulting your spouse in the middle of a mental health crisis is the Flemish way to say “I love you”. Or “I wish for your inevitable downfall”. I can never remember which.
Good news for the husband, Alice becomes instantly enamored with the house and connected to it.
Too bad the house is old and needs work, but not to worry! There are several gross and obnoxious young men who can fix it up on her husband’s tenured (?) professor’s salary. But from these young men, only one catches her eye.
Enter Wings. Working only all hours of the night, Wings Hauser plays Ed, a carpenter- no, THE carpenter. Just a salt-of-the Earth, old-fashioned man who loves to get down and dirty with the house and she is into it. In the late nights, they wax poetics about how people are dumb and lazy now, and how great the house is. They form a friendship and maybe something deeper…
But can their love affair survive his sordid past, her lackluster marriage, the mysteriously missing crew members, and most importantly, the fact that he may have an incorporeal D?
This is actually refreshing. It has all the cheese and glamour of the 80’s, but with a spine of sentimentality running through the film. Surprisingly, this is a love story. A messy and strange one, sure, but a love story. It’s not going to blow your mind, but there’s enough to it that is an entertaining watch and an interesting spin.
With such a bland title, I was surprised with the weight it did hold. I think having Wings as The Carpenter was a huge part of it. When you have your top bill as “the other” and not as Alice’s husband, it turns to focus around on its head. It’s a wonderful little “what if” trip.
The only thing that I would have changed is not show the asylum or have the breakdown bigger. In the MST3K classic, ‘The Screaming Skull’, this was wonderfully illustrated. The main character, Jenny, was emotionally distressed when moving into a new place, fragile but hopeful. We never saw Jenny in the asylum (this ages very poorly), we just saw the aftermath. I think this would have been better in The Carpenter, especially as a way for the characters to interact with each other.
Plus maybe another kill in the movie…A nosy mailman or something…Spread them out. They weren’t paced super well.
But as a directorial debut…this was pretty darn good and fun. A little gem for an 80’s night.
Boy, oh boy, I will have to write a whole article one day about mental health in horror movies, huh? There’s a lot to cover. That’s my third dissertation, I guess. Or a whole other podcast (I do those by the way).
Honestly, I liked Alice a lot. She was not a push-over. She was strong in her beliefs and convictions, even regarding her health. Her husband kept trying to get her to take sleeping pills and she was like, “But I don’t need them. I sleep okay.” The only time when she didn’t sleep through the night is when Wings is frickin’ hammering and sawing at 3 in the morning.
When they bond, it’s actually charming. He seems to appreciate her in ways her husband doesn’t (husband seems just to dismiss her, but he’s also having an affair with a student, so he’s a busy guy). And when she disagrees with her husband and Wings, she’s no shrinking violet. She’s not Shelley Duvall in ‘The Shining’, tightly wound and clutching onto each cigarette for dear life. She’s clear about her boundaries, while also being vulnerable and, yes, susceptible.
Lynne Adams did an amazing job at pulling this off. So, while the initial breakdown and asylum was rough campiness, she did a wonderful job at bringing life and gravity to the character.
Fun 80’s romp with Wings Hauser into the problems of falling in love with a ghost who enjoys flipping houses at ungodly hours.(4 / 5)