Is anyone ever really gone? Denis Côte poses this question with his adaption of Laurence Olivier’s (no, not that one) novel, a glacially paced gaze at a community’s grief following an untimely death.
The first scene sees Simon Dubé veer off the road in his car, the crash is fatal, but was it intentional? His mother Gisèle refuses to believe so, his brother Jimmy is more resigned to the idea, thinking the boredom of their basic country life got him down.
The death sends a shockwave through the 215 inhabitants of Irénée-les-Neiges, a tight knit Canadian town where all the residents know each other by name. It’s a far distance from any other sign of civilisation, bar the local quarry.
Simon’s death sends the entire town into a state of mourning, with the local mayor comparing the town to a house of cards that could collapse at any moment following the loss. A counsellor is sent in to help the town but is quickly ushered away by the mayor, deciding that they’re more than equipped to deal with the situation on their own terms.
As the residents mourn, they’re warned not to become reclusive, but it’s tough not to. As citizens grieve, their reclusion almost manifests in the structures around them, the local mine is closed and nearest motel is shut for the winter.
The dead of the town soon materialise in person, but it stays far from becoming a fright fest. They idly watch, sometimes from the side of the road, sometimes inside their old homes. A quiet reminder that no is ever really gone, that the memories of the deceased linger on every corner of this quaint town.
Glacially paced, scenes can become frustrating, it’s like trying to put together a jigsaw but no matter how many pieces you put in, the picture never truly becomes clear. Certain scenes appear to have no link to the plot, and some of the emotional pay offs aren’t nearly as satisfying as they could be.
But where Côte excels is in creating a different kind of horror, a deeper existential dread than the story first suggests.
A ghost standing at the top of the stairs in his old house should be goosebump inducing, instead it’s a reminder of our own mortality, a gentle acknowledgement that we won’t always be here, and with some of the ghosts going entirely unnoticed, that we might not even be remembered.
And what could be scarier than that?
Ghost Town Anthology was screened at HOME, Manchester as part of FilmFear. Further details can be found here – https://homemcr.org/event/filmfear/