Don’t you just hate it when a ghost ruins all your plans and makes you fall for her indie-music singin’ ways AFTER she’s stolen your precious pizza?! I hate that the worst of all! And so does our main character in this week’s movie, A GHOST WAITS.
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I want to put a trigger warning on this one for suicidal ideation/themes. So, if that’s not in your wheelhouse, I’d suggest skipping this, especially the end with “Brain Roll Juice”. Thanks and be well. – J.M.
The Plot: (spoiler-free)
Jack (MacLeod Andrews) is your typical half-neurotic, half-sweet-as-apple-pie handyman. He’s often neglected and shit on by others, including his own friends and his boss, but it’s really through no fault of his own. He likes his job and enjoys the simplicity of fixing the broken, maintaining houses, and rocking out to indie bands. He’s the kind of guy who talks to toilets while cleaning them, and making them talk back.
He’s also the type of guy who is slow on the uptake when he begins to be haunted by a dark and mysterious ghost, Muriel (Natalie Walker). So, chairs rocking on their own, lights going out, and strange dreams don’t bother him much. But push comes to shove when this ghostly apparition STEALS HIS GODDAMN PIZZA!
He then starts losing his shit before realizing what’s happening and why so many previous tenants of the house have moved out (ghost on both accounts).
However, frustrated, he confronts the ghost, shocking her and piquing her curiosity in him. They start to form a bond and maybe even…love?
But ghosting is a serious business and if she can’t get him to leave the house, then her ghost license is revoked, or something, and she becomes a “shadow” (which is bad news).
But as just they begin to understand their feelings, the ghost agency sends another ghost to get the job done. Can their love survive? And if so, at what cost?
This is one that hurt because there were a lot of right steps done for a low-budget horror-comedy, but there were also problematic areas that could have been avoided.
They lowered the effects and made it more down-to-earth, including makeup and the very slight gore. These are effects that I could probably do if given some YouTube videos and an afternoon, but that actually enhances the indie feel of this movie.
Same with the black and white. It’s not really needed, but it adds to the flavor and the atmosphere, and reminds me of old indie horrors of the early 60’s. There are some fun shots, but for the most part, it’s pretty straight-forward.
The music is filled to the brim with indie bands, which can get a bit tiring after a while because they blur together. But I enjoyed that they were mostly diegetic and a plot point. And I was also happy to see that they were actually used by the characters instead of just blaring in the background.
Okay, let’s get to the really good and the really…not-good.
The really good were the shoulders of MacLeod Andrews because he f***ing carried this thing. His portrayal of Jack was actually sweet, endearing, and relatable. Honestly, it was weird seeing a character that I related so much with during the first act especially. Yes, I have talked to toilets. Yes, I have made them respond to me. We’re friends, get over it. But seriously, his acting was tremendous in this, as were his line reads because it could have gone completely the opposite and he could have sounded like a “nice guy” instead of an actual nice guy. So, I tip my hat, sir.
And here comes the not-good, which I’ll talk more about in the next segment, too. The writing, mostly.
When we get to the second act, it begins to unravel. Once our two mains meet, it becomes a mess. We don’t get enough character from Muriel (not backstory, character) to make her memorable or his actions justifiable. The ghost bureaucracy just muddled and slowed the story down. When you add bureaucratic rules to supernatural, it usually gets tiresome unless really well done (i.e. Beetlejuice). It’s like playing a complex role-playing game – suddenly you’re arguing about THAC0 for an hour when you just wanna go kill orcs with your bikini-clad barbarian babe.
If they wanted to add it, we (as the audience) should have learned about it before Jack, so it didn’t feel tagged on and it felt more a part of Muriel’s character. The stakes would have felt higher and we could have connected to her more as a character.
Their flirting/meeting each other was, like, an hour or two at most. They are just sitting at the table and talking for half an afternoon. This equates as love in the movie. Do we need to revisit Frozen?
We never really understand why he even likes Muriel as more than a cool undead chick to sometimes hang with. The love doesn’t feel real or genuine. It feels really forced, in fact.
And also, just a BIG no for the line from Muriel, “What’s a movie?”
This is from a ghost who has claimed to understand people’s deepest fears from observing them and you’re telling me she’s never seen a couple people plop down and watch a freakin’ video on Tubi (please Tubi, respond to my voicemails, I love you, please notice my love!)? I call Bull Shenanigans. Hard B.S.
Brain Roll Juice: (spoilers ahead)
Okay, I’m not going to beat around the bush. This is a movie where a guy who has shitty friends feels lonely, meets a ghost for an afternoon, she pays attention to him so he thinks he’s in love, she likes him or whatever, but they can’t be together, SO HE COMMITS SUICIDE.
Let that seep into every crack of your soul. I’ll wait…
Suicide is the answer to this love story.
She doesn’t say, “Hey, wait a minute. Like, you have your whole life…”
Nope, she’s all smiles and thumbs-up as he sits in his car, garage doors closed, waiting to die. He even calls his boss to thank him for everything and we see a scene of his boss finding his lifeless body.
In the next scene, we see the two of them haunting the house together because true love wins and they chose not to fear the reaper.
Honestly, I am still not sure what to even say to this ending.
I keep seeing reviews calling A GHOST WAITS heart-warming and charming, and I’m just beside myself. I keep thinking I’m the only one who sees the damn gremlin on the wing of the plane and that gremlin is the alarming rise of suicides in the world.
In the United States, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall, claiming the lives of over 48,000 people per year. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54. Males are at a higher risk than females, just as rural areas are higher risk than urban.
And if we still believe the theory of Durkheim’s extensive study on suicide (I know it was like forever and a day ago), Le Suicide, we can see a pattern that Jack fits into, which Durkheim called the Egoist Suicide. The Egoist suicide is usually enacted when one feels severely disconnected from their family, friends, community and society. Jack basically even says this at one point, that his life doesn’t matter because his friends don’t want him, his boss doesn’t respect him, and we never hear from his family. He is alone and lonely. He thinks he has no reason to live and one reason to die, so he chooses death.
This is depressive, not happy. The ending glorifies his decision and is played off like it was the right decision. There is no hint of hesitation from him or Muriel.
This, surprisingly, goes back to Beetlejuice, when Lydia is planning on suicide to be with the people who care about her and they tell her that life is hard, but it’s hers to live. They will always love her and be there for her especially when she lives through those challenging times. It’s Barbara and Adam’s love that supports her and drives her to keep living, and not to pull her into the bureaucratic eternity of being a ghost.
Because otherwise the relationship would be selfish and toxic.
You might enjoy this romp. There were moments that I truly did. But when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, it falls flat with its mission (a genuine romance) and it’s message (Jack completing suicide = love beats all).(2 / 5)