Ghosts of the Ozarks is a 2021 horror western that will be available to stream from 23rd May. With a plot that promised a period horror, the end result is sadly lacking in mystery and is instead a long, drawn-out affair that only really picks up right at the end.
The film follows Doctor James McCune (Thomas Hobson) who is called upon by his uncle Matthew (Phil Morris) to attend his small town of Norfork in Arkansas. On his approach to the town, James encounters a menacing local man before a red fog attacks and pulls him away into the night. James flees to the town where the townsfolk seem unperturbed by his experience, and he heads to meet his uncle.
Matthew recruits James to be the town doctor and informs him that the red fog is spirits that linger outside the town, with Matthew doing all he can to protect the inhabitants so long as they remain within the walls. James takes on his new role and meets the locals, including innkeeper Torb (Tim Blake Nelson) and his piano playing wife Lucille (Angela Bettis), hunters Annie (Tara Perry) and William (Joseph Ruud) and tailor and photography fanatic Douglas (David Arquette).
While he learns more about the town, James also uncovers more about the ghosts in the red fog and an indication that there may be more sinister goings-on happening within the community. As he unearths secrets some townsfolk would prefer remain hidden, James fights to solve the mystery of the town and the ghosts before the bodies pile up.
Despite its title, the ghosts are sadly lacking in this film. They crop up occasionally throughout the 1-hour 47-minute runtime, but the majority of the plot seems to focus on the mundanity of James’ daily life as he learns the ropes in the town. It just isn’t interesting and while the film does pick up a little in the final act and becomes more engaging, the whole thing is just way too slow and drawn out. It’s also let down by a twist ending reveal that has been done many times before, and much better too. The film as a whole feels very reminiscent of The Village or even hints of Midsommar or The Wicker Man but falls far from being anywhere close to these.
It isn’t helped by some rather questionable effects and a decidedly low budget which makes some of the set pieces and ghost effects look a little cheap. Although the costume department has at least done well and all of the characters look the part, it’s just a shame that nothing else character-wise lives up to their overall appearance. There seem to be varying performances here, from over the top to decidedly stiff acting, both of which would be more fitting in a daytime soap opera. I was also a little confused by the mish-mash of accents here, from American to Irish and English, and these all seemed a little out of place for the setting – especially Tim Blake Nelson’s Irish(?) which came across as a little bizarre. The main reason I wanted to see this film was for David Arquette, and he’s wasted here. He’s a breath of fresh air when he is on screen and instantly makes it more engaging, but sadly his screen time is far too limited to be of use.
There are aspects of Ghosts of the Ozarks that are done well and showed promise, but overall a tired and drawn out plot with a predictable ending makes for a very lacklustre film.
Signature Entertainment present Ghosts of the Ozarks on Digital Platforms 23rd May
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!