Ghostkeeper

“Ghostkeeper” is an obscure little Canadian horror movie from the early 1980s that I’d read about and wanted to see for quite some time, so I was really happy when I got the chance to. “Ghostkeeper” revolves around a group of friends – two women, Jenny and Chrissy, and a man, Marty – who are spending their New Year’s Eve in the snowy mountains. After stopping into a secluded store, they decide to head off for some snowmobiling before it gets dark, but as they climb up the icy mountain slopes, Chrissy crashes her snowmobile and it stops running. A snowstorm begins, and the gang decides to spend the night in a seemingly abandoned lodge, but discover a disheveled old woman who resides there with her son. While the group is spending the night in the darkened old place, Chrissy vanishes, leaving Marty and Jenny worried the next morning. Jenny begins hearing voices in her head, and starts to think she may be going crazy. But it seems that the old woman running the inn is holding a dark secret, and may want Jenny to be the new keeper of an evil, flesh-eating entity residing in the basement of the building.

A remarkably eerie and very atmospheric horror film, “Ghostkeeper” is yet another undiscovered horror gem that is hardly known of at all, even by hardened horror fans. This is surprising to me because I thought this was a pretty top-notch ’80s horror flick, and had all the makings of a creepy little spook story. With some elements reminiscent of “The Shining”, “Ghostkeeper” manages to weave an interesting and mostly original plot that, while it is a little obscure, is engaging nonetheless. The film opens with a title about the “windigo” (I thought it was spelled “wendigo”, but whatever), a spirit told through Indian legend to reside in the mountains and is cannibalistic in nature. This caption ties in with the ghost-like creature/entity that is being kept in the basement of the abandoned lodge, and all comes together in the end. While the story may sound a little off the wall, it is actually very well put together and is consistently entertaining.

The atmosphere in this film is wonderful. Shot in the beautiful snow-covered mountains in Canada, this is an excellent setting for the story to unfold, and the bleak but beautiful scenery provides a few chills. The old lodge, surrounded by the Rocky mountains, is really spooky, inside and out – it’s a large hotel/lodge and reminded me quite a bit of the setting for Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”, although much darker. The feeling of seclusion and foreboding is cranked to the maximum, and as the film progresses, things begin to get stranger and stranger for our three main characters. There isn’t a lot of gore in this film, so those expecting a splatter fest will be disappointed – in fact, there is hardly any violence in the film at all, but it’s still very effective and eerie nonetheless.

The performers are mostly unknown Canadian actors, and the acting isn’t anything award-worthy, but it’s passable enough. The best performance in the film is from Georgie Collins, who plays the mysterious (and very creepy) old woman who lives at the lodge with her son, and of course the “windigo” that is living in the basement. I was at first worried that the whole ‘creature’ element in the film might have made things a little corny, but it didn’t come across that way at all – in fact, the actual windigo is never really fully seen, which adds to the mystique. The score here is also a nice addition, by Paul Zaza, who did work on slasher classics such as “Prom Night” and “My Bloody Valentine”, and is very eerie and unsettling. The film ends in an unexpected way that is very bleak but strangely satisfying, and added to its over feel of spookiness.

Overall, “Ghostkeeper” is another one of those unknown horror gems that are hard to come by, but rewarding when discovered. It would be nice to see a distribution company pick this film up for a DVD release, because it (like many other films of its type) is being neglected by this. If you enjoyed the 1983 Canadian slasher “Curtains”, or the 1980 stalker film “Prom Night”, I’d recommend seeking out this spooky little Canadian gem. Recommended for fans of subtle and severely atmospheric horror films, although I’m not sure this film is for everybody – as for me, I love stuff like this