Emily is a ghost with a dark side in ‘I Am A Ghost’.
The joy of discovering a gem of a film, especially one off the beaten path, is hard to beat. Next week, I’m going to be talking about some Lao horror ghost stories. It happened that while I was getting prepared for that, I stumbled into mention of H.P. Mendoza’s supernatural thriller of a ghost story, I Am A Ghost. Talk about kismet, right? After looking at the trailer, I was sold on it. The film is available on Amazon Prime and clocks in at a quick 76 minutes. I dig the holy hell out of this movie. Let me give you a spoiler free pitch on why you should give it a look.
What’s it about? Emily (Anna Ishida) is a ghost. And this story about a super natural house cleaning is told entirely from the ghost’s perspective. This allows Mendoza to make the thoroughly lovely choice of letting the not-quite-hereafter be a naturally, daylight filled journey to the “next place”. Emily spends her day haunting her house. As she goes through a series of chores, we establish what the spirit’s routine is. From there, the clairvoyant Sylvia (Jeannie Barroga) engages with Emily to help her move on. We never see Sylvia! To Emily, Sylvia is the body-less spirit helping her to work through the trauma tethering her somewhere between our world and the next. And let me tell you, Emily has some issues to work through.
We are totally mainlining H.P. Mendoza’s vision for what such a movie should look like. Here are his credits on I Am A Ghost:
- Camera Operator
- Film Editing,
- Sound Mixer,
- Special Effects.
This cat was wildly busy. When we spoke with the fellas from Snowfort Pictures about making movies on a budget, they argued you could make anything for any amount so long as you narrowed the focus. I fully agree with that world view, but god damn you’ve got to hustle. And that hustle totally shows up in the frame. However, he’s not the only key to success here.
Anna Ishida is the sole occupant of the screen for the overwhelming majority of the movie. I thought it was true when Tom Hanks spent his days with Wilson in Cast Away and I think it’s true here: one person shows are impressive feats of acting. Mendoza hustled hard to put this project together, but my hat’s off to Ishida for handling the demands of the performance while giving an emotional depth.
The flick is gorgeous. The cinematography does not reveal the on-a-tight-budget nature of the shoot. The approach to lighting and framing is genuinely eye catching. But, it isn’t just terrific camera work. The house is aces. Every haunted house movie makes its bones on the quality of the house, right? Well, whoever scouted this location upped the production value by an order of magnitude. It’s full of long, narrow gorgeous hallways, beautiful colors, and the best one person metal spiral staircase I’ve seen used in a movie in forever. And, oh my, the way it gets used in the third act!
For all that, the way I really want to pitch this movie to you is by what it does with the genre. It takes a less common perspective in a typical genre film and does something with it I haven’t seen before. And it sings while it does what the best of genre film should do. I Am A Ghost takes complex human experiences and uses these genre elements to break them down into something emotionally impactful and relatable. It uses the fantastical to find and discuss human nature. We all have to work with our demons lest we be overcome by them. The entire structure of the movie works to build this thematic element up. Mindless routines blind us to who we really are and only give the illusion of engaging with reality. We must confront and embrace ourselves, or we will just fade away to repetitive tedium.
The first two thirds of the film are very effective at setting up the tension for that confrontation. Something is not right with Emily. She is not as reliable a perspective as she seems. And you can feel that in the presentation. It’s unnerving and that discomfort builds until the confrontation. And, confrontation is scary, y’all. It’s a slow burn to the third act. However, that pacing is essential. Your persistence will be thoroughly rewarded.
Check out the trailer if you like, it doesn’t have any spoilers in it either. But, please do give this beauty of a film a watch. And let me know if you dig it!