Originally published on Elements of Madness.
With limited resources at hand, the incredible cast and crew of A Ghost Waits truly came through with teamwork and creativity. Making the most of what they had and pooling resources from family and friends, the team shot the movie in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2016. After its first public screening at Fright Fest Glasgow in March 2020, the movie underwent a few more tweaks and changes before it was released for streaming on Arrow in February 2021. The final version of this quirky horror/romcom is a testament to the crew’s perseverance and collaborative efforts, showcasing their enormous love for filmmaking. In the words of director and co-writer Adam Stovall, the movie isn’t perfect, but it’s “the best version of itself” possible. You can now get the full scoop on the story behind the film from the interviews and commentaries included on the Blu-ray from Arrow Video, which makes the perfect gem to add to your home collection.
A Ghost Waits descends from a long line of romantic ghost films, taking cues from a myriad of classics while holding its own as a decidedly unique flick. MacLeod Andrews stars as Jack, a lonely handyman hired to fix up a rental house after the tenants abruptly break their lease. He shares the screen with Natalie Walker as Muriel, a “spectral agent” (aka ghost) who is tasked with haunting the rental property for all eternity. After Muriel fails to scare Jack away, the unlikely pair discover that they have a lot in common: they’re both lonely, they both love music, and they’re both undervalued by their bosses (it turns out capitalism has seeped its way into the afterlife, too). Jack and Muriel take comfort in each other’s company, but they also both have a job to do. Although the romance is rushed (then again, what romance flick isn’t), Jack and Muriel’s mutual need for companionship is surprisingly sincere. A Ghost Waits blends the romance and horror genres together with quirky charm and fresh humor.
After watching A Ghost Waits for the first time, you’ll probably find yourself drawn to its strong tone and stylistic elements. The movie is filled with surprising details and jokes that make up for the underdeveloped romance and strained dialogue (Muriel speaks with an “old fashioned” cadence that gets a little unnerving after a while). But again, considering the time and budget constraints, A Ghost Waits is an amazing feature debut for Stovall, not to mention the other cast and crew members who were also new to filmmaking. Its offbeat tone, exceptional cinematography, and terrific use of sound and music point to a clearly defined style that may become Stovall’s signature.
After working your way through some of the special features and watching the movie a second time, you’ll start to notice more complex themes in A Ghost Waits. In their analyses of the movie, Isabel Custodio and Craig Ian Mann both take a Marxist approach to Jack and Muriel’s conflicts, turning our attention to the characters’ search for identity outside of their corporate-style jobs. Custodio’s video essay, “Humanity and the Afterlife in A Ghost Waits,” and Mann’s first-pressing article, “Worked to Death (and Beyond): A Ghost Waits in a Capitalist World,” add a scholarly flavor to the Blu-ray and provide outsider’s perspectives that complement the cast and crew’s stories about production. Both features reveal the depth and complexity of A Ghost Waits, presenting the movie as a story of two people who find a meaningful connection in a world that defines them by their productivity. Anyone interested in the history of the ghost movie genre will particularly enjoy Custodio’s video essay, which places A Ghost Waits in the context of film history.
The eight cast and crew interviews and three commentaries reveal how much fun everyone had while making A Ghost Waits. There’s a contagious joy and excitement throughout the interviews that makes us appreciate the craftsmanship of the movie all the more. While the eight interviews conducted by tt stern-enzi work well together, it would be wise to watch the features on different days since they do get a little repetitive. Each commentary and interview has a unique perspective to offer, but it’s difficult to appreciate those perspectives when you’re hearing the same behind-the-scenes stories and trivia over and over again. (Many of those repeated stories are about all the intriguing scenes that were cut from the final movie, but, unfortunately, these deleted scenes are not included on the Blu-ray). Still, the cast and crew keep up a casual, free-flowing conversation in each commentary and make the audience feel welcome. After watching one of the features, you’ll walk away feeling like you’ve become a part of something special.
The interviews and commentaries are also a terrific educational resource for aspiring filmmakers. As we learn in the interviews, A Ghost Waits was the first feature film for many of its cast and crew. Their retrospective thoughts about the process offer valuable insights for anyone who wants to work their way into the world of independent filmmaking. The cast and crew are all humble and friendly, sharing their experiences in an accessible way. It’s clear that Stovall, Andrews, and everyone involved in A Ghost Waits want to share their learning experience with others. As we watch these interviews, we learn about the accidents, failures, and sacrifices that are necessary to make a terrific movie. The insightful features on the Blu-ray celebrate the team’s persistence, flexibility, and teamwork, making it clear that A Ghost Waits was truly a labor of love.
A Ghost Waits Special Features
Available on TVOD and Blu-ray from Arrow Video May 4th, 2021.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."