I haven't listened to the commentary yet, but the publicity and imdb states that AN AMERICAN GHOST STORY was shot for $10,000. I wonder if that includes the cost of the hi-def camera and which hi-def camera they used. According to the behind the scenes documentary, which is a generous 40-minute interview with director Derek Cole and scriptwriter / star Stephen Twardokus, it was shot with a crew of two -- namely the director and star -- in the director's home with his wife and kids helping out moving stuff and setting things up. A poorboy production though it is, there is nothing but imagination, resourcefulness, professionalism and good old-fashioned know-how on display here. This is a well-made haunted house movie, so well-made it puts bigger expensive studio movies to shame.
Two observations, one minor, the other not so minor, and neither is a complaint or a flaw, really. Sometimes I wish Derek Cole would pull back to a medium or wide shot to establish the entire space instead of shooting entirely in close-ups and medium-close-ups. He may not have had the room to do so. A large room can suddenly become very small and cramped when you a bring in a camera, lights and one or two actors, so I understand the close restrictions in which they were working, but he needed more room. Cole gets a lot of mileage out of a nice ordinary house, but more distinctive surroundings would have served the story better than the director's own home.
I enjoyed AN AMERICAN GHOST STORY so much I wish it had been shot on 35mm film. There are times when digital capture looks almost translucent, like a thin veneer, as if the color were a lacquer applied to a black and white photograph underneath. It has texture and resolution, yes, but I need to figure out a new vocabulary to describe what hi-def capture is missing compared to film. Cole and Twardokus are so talented I wish they'd had more to work with. I hope this debut film signals more work and a larger budget from them in the future.
There is no bloodletting, gore, or nudity and only the mildest cussin', so this is a haunted house film the entire family can enjoy. Let's mention Wendy Haines playing a frightened former tenant of the house. She only has two scenes, but this actress will convince you that she is shaken to her very core. Her second scene ratchets up the tension considerably, and it's accomplished entirely by her performance.
If I see another film written or directed by Cole or Twardokus it's a blind buy right away.
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