I Am a Ghost
Posted by Holly
Stories told from the point of view of a haunting spirit aren’t a new concept – it’s been explored in films such as The Others, Haunter, and the like. However, they haven’t yet reached a level of frequency to have exhausted their storytelling potential. I Am a Ghost uses this point of view to create a claustrophobic and emotionally charged character study as its central focus.
The story follows Emily, as the audience follows her around her home, performing mundane tasks. As this goes on, there is a sense of uneasiness as it becomes increasingly apparent that something isn’t quite right. She reacts in fear as she peers into an empty room, hears sounds from the top of the stairs that cause her to flee, and it’s implied that she injures herself while eating a meal. Soon, Emily is woken out of her haze by a disembodied voice that identifies herself as Sylvia, a medium present to remove her spirit from the home she haunts. With this, Emily remembers, with acceptance, that she is a ghost. Moreover, she has gone through this with Sylvia several times before, always fleeing in fear before they can complete her spiritual transition to “move on.”
To begin, this seems to be a rather low budget film. This isn’t necessarily a drawback, but if you are used to clean, glossy production values in non-found footage films, this may be jarring initially. After you orient yourself to this, however, you begin to understand why it doesn’t necessarily need the high production values to accomplish what it’s setting out to do. This, in effect, is a one woman show. It could very well be a stage production, because it is the believability of the central actress that draws you into the piece. Considering the weight of carrying the whole story on her shoulders, she delivers quite a nice, vulnerable performance as our displaced spirit.
Sylvia is never seen on screen, but her parts comprise the only interactions Emily gets to have. The story establishes a nice flow between them, and a film that essentially fixates on conversation between two women, with the goal of helping one of them find peace, is quite refreshing. Sylvia’s parts are sincere, which makes all of the difference here; she reaches out to Emily, not as someone attempting to purge her as a job, but as someone who relates to the experience of being different, and wanting to help her heal.
Throughout the film, there are several references to a “monster” that Emily fears. This entity is only revealed towards the end, and you can automatically tell that this is where a lot of the budget must have gone. That’s not really a criticism, as it looks clean and realistic enough not to stand out. He was certainly startling, and a huge swing away from what the rest of the film was doing, which was more of a existentialist level of horror. It inserted a bit of urgency into the story that was maybe needed by the end of the film, and while I feel conflicted about the nature of this creature, its presence allowed for a decently scary sequence.
On that note, there’s a twist towards the end that I feel does venture a bit too far into tropes, but ultimately, is handled well enough to accept. I’m not a fan of the “multiple personalities” explanation for supernatural occurrences, so I’ll admit to a moment of eye rolling when the term was uttered. The way it plays out doesn’t allow that to put a damper on the enjoyment of the story, or its resolution.
As for the resolution… well, I’m still not entirely certain how I feel about it. It wasn’t a bad ending, but it wasn’t really a satisfying one either. It felt like it simply stopped, abruptly, without a clear fate outlined for our central character. And perhaps that was the point. Maybe death can’t be easy for her, or her demons fully defeated. There’s a lingering feeling of sadness that Emily can perhaps never have peace, no matter what Sylvia, and the audience, wants for her. We can only ever watch her suffer.
This is a worthwhile watch if you’re interested in a slow-burn film that is equal parts ghost story and character study, with a strong female character at its core. It has its flaws, and isn’t the strongest ghost-centric story, but it’s a commendable entry into the category. Is it scary? Not as much as one could hope, but it does deliver a handful of solid moments, with an overall eeriness maintained throughout. Give it a try and you might be surprised.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5. Solid acting, emotional story.
Scariness level: The fear comes more from the overall uneasiness of the situation at first. Then in the last fifteen minutes, you’re hit with an unexpected level of monster activity.
Violence level: There’s a bit of blood here and there, some self inflicted.
Bechdel test: Half of the film is just conversation between two women. Like said above, Sylvia and Emily are the bulk of the interactions, and other than speaking of Emily’s death and the monstrous creature, most of their conversations center fully on Emily and her journey. So it’s a very big pass.
Mako Mori test: Once again, this is a story of the main female’s journey into finding (or not finding) peace after her death.