A Ghost Waits
directed by Adam Stovall
starring MacLeod Andrews, Natalie Walker
A Ghost Waits is a ghost story, a love story, and a workplace comedy. It is a micro-budget film that has all the ingredients for a disaster but instead emerges as one of the most delightful films of 2020. Shot on location in a borrowed house in Cincinnati, Ohio, the film opens with a montage of a distressed family fleeing their haunted home, much to the delight of the home’s spectral agent Muriel (Natalie Walker). With the home free of human tenants, rental company handyman Jack (MacLeod Andrews) arrives on the scene to get the house ready to go back on the market. Jack dutifully inspects the house leaving numbered bits on painter’s tape on things that need to be addressed throughout the home so he can devise a work plan. Jack is in a bind as his apartment building is being fumigated and being unable to snag a couch to surf on he decides to make the best of a bad situation and just beds down in the house…much to Muriel’s chagrin. She just got the house free of humans and there’s already another one invading her space so she set about to get Jack out. Her subtle and manipulative actions are met with bewilderment and annoyance by Jack but he steadfastly refuses to be scared. There is a genuinely unnerving passage where Jack has taped up a diagram and a spelled out in tape “Jack Needs More” with a piece of paper with the word “tape” tacked on the wall and Muriel starts ringing the doorbell and after Jack’s second trip to the front door he returns to the kitchen to find his taped announcement missing, along with the pizza he ordered. He then realizes that all of his tape is gone. All of his inspections now undone. Jack loses his cool but steadfastly refuses to leave. Muriel appears to him to try to figure out why her usual repertoire of scares isn’t working. Worse for Muriel, her boss at the spectral agency wants to know why as well. Is Muriel slipping in her duties? Would a younger, more eager agent have an easier time? Soon Jack and Muriel have forged an unlikely friendship bordering on romance that is complicated by Muriel’s middle management boss and a corporate shill greenhorn ghost. Somehow they have to figure a way to get Jack out of the house so Muriel can keep her position and allow Jack to find happiness.
The film, directed by Adam Stovall makes the most out of it’s concept largely by understanding the budgetary limitations and being happy to play small ball and keeping the film centered on the two charismatic leads instead of going for anything wider in scope. All four of the actors in the film are terrific, but it all hinges on Jack and Muriel, if you care about them the film works and they make it easy to care about both characters. The film is also boosted by a terrific soundtrack from Mitch Bain, Margaret Darling, and songs from Wussy, Honey Honey, and James E. Smith. The music isn’t just random needle drops but the songs strongly inform the mood and characters for the film and bounce between diegetic and nondiegetic, especially when Jack picks up a guitar and sings Wussy’s “Yellow Cotton Dress” which weaves its way throughout the movie.
Despite being swallowed up by the Covid pandemic, A Ghost Waits has found life as a packed out Blu-ray release with three audio commentaries, interviews, a video essay by Isabel Custodio, outtakes and more. This horror/workplace/rom-com is a perfect blind buy with some spooky trapping, hearty belly laughs, and a tender thoughtful ending that lingers long after.