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Sunday, December 3, 2023

LFF 2019: Ghost Town Anthology Movie Review

Ghost Town Anthology is the latest feature from acclaimed French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Coté.

Adapted from Laurence Olivier’s 2015 novel of the same name is set in in the small town of Sainte-Irénée-Les-Neiges, Quebec.

After a popular 21-year-old Simon crashes his car, his brother – Jimmy (Robert Naylor), bored with country life, suspects it was suicide.

His mother Gisèle Dubé (Josée Deschênes) and the mayor Smallwood (Diane Lavallée), however, preferring to flag resilience, reject such ideas.

Meanwhile, other locals start hearing strange sounds, glimpsing strange figures and experiencing occurrences.

What are these occurrences and where are they from? These questions start to form the crux of the movie.

The snowy setting of Sainte-Irénée-Les-Neiges establishes a frosty atmosphere from the very beginning.

Seeing the white blanketed grounds and home rooftops evoke an eerie sentiment.

Plus, the same looking appearance across the town creates a sense of enigma, as the lines of reality and paranoia become blurred.

The beauty of Ghost Town Anthology is that Coté steers far away from stereotypical horror tropes.  

Unlike other supernatural/fantasy films, the ‘jumpscares’ and convenient spooky attributes are done away with and it so refreshing to see this. 

In our opinion, the movie itself cannot be coined as a horror. It is more like a poignant ghost story, that is somewhat thought-provoking. 

Rather it being a haunting of some sort, the film determines the audience to question our own strength of dealing with death. 

With Gisèle constantly lamenting over Simon’s passing, we see how that impacts her psyche and mental health.

Even for Jimmy, despite being a young man, is faced with the responsibility of stepping up to look after his mother, whilst dealing with his own sadness. 

At the same time, it raises a point about society and how they try to move on… Though death still plays on their minds.

It is fascinating how eventually the town inhabitants also come to terms with the figures and dead bodies. 

The residents observe these apparitions in a normal way like how we would on seeing a fox at our front porch.

At one point, one person believes that “they’re just like us”, however, another believes that they aren’t.

Plus, there is a scene where a former anxious woman is levitating in the sky and her demeanour looks as though she is at peace. 

Another individual observing this calls out to her as though she is alive, unphased by the fact that the figure is hanging in thin air.

The ideologies of moving on from the past and making peace with death become the focal narrative point.

It is dark and melancholic, but it is certainly not dreary.

The film is visually arresting from the very first frame and the narrative cuts straight to the chase without delving into unnecessary backstories.

Despite it being a slow burner, the fact that it is shot on a grainy looking 16 mm camera, it gives folklore and more mysterious feel to the film.

Whilst Coté endeavours to make the movie as convoluted as possible, somehow, the viewer does not get closure… Especially regarding the enigma of how these apparitions are appearing. 

Perhaps we are not meant to know? Or maybe there will be a follow up in the future? Is it even necessary for closure, when in life we don’t always get that?

Regardless, one cannot deny that Ghost Town Anthology leaves the viewer unsettled. 

It breaks the glass ceiling for narrating ghost stories and proves that death is more than just shock and horror. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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