Ghostkeeper (1981)

“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 Canadian Rockies. 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, and something… else.

Remarkably eerie and atmospheric, “Ghostkeeper” is yet another undiscovered horror gem that is hardly known of at all, even by hardened horror fans. With some elements unabashedly reminiscent of “The Shining,” “Ghostkeeper” manages to weave an interesting and mostly original plot that, while a bit hackneyed at times, is engaging nonetheless. The film opens with a title about the “windigo,” a cannibalistic spirit told through Indian legend to reside in the mountains. This caption ties in with the ghost-like creature/entity that is being kept in the abandoned lodge, and is the crux of the proceedings.

The atmosphere in this film is wonderful. Shot in the beautiful snow-covered mountains of Alberta, this is an excellent setting for the story to unfold, and the bleak but beautiful scenery provides a few chills all on its own. The old lodge is sufficiently spooky, inside and out, and earns its comparisons to Kubrick’s “The Shining,” although it’s markedly darker and dingier. The feeling of seclusion and foreboding is cranked to the maximum, and as the film progresses, things begin to get stranger and stranger for the 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 the aim here is more of an exercise in dread and unease than anything else.

The performers are mostly unknown Canadian actors, and the acting isn’t anything award-worthy, but it’s passable. The best performance in the film is from Georgie Collins, who plays the mysterious old woman. 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 despite the general weirdness of the downbeat final act.

Overall, “Ghostkeeper” is another one of many unknown horror gems that are hard to come by, but rewarding when discovered. 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. If abandoned lodges, snowstorms, and clandestine wendigos are your thing, seek this shoestring Canadian thriller out.