In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Northern Exposure

The next VHS out of the pile was my recent acquisition of James Makichuk's Ghostkeeper, a Canadian joint from 1981. Having my finger on the pulse of tax shelter era Canuck flicks, I was aware of this movie, but was never able to get my hands on it until now.

Three snowmobilers in the Canadian Rockies have the bright idea to blaze their own trail and end up at a secluded hotel. Northern inhospitality ensues.

Sadly, this one was a bit of a bloodless bore. I mean, there was potential, as Makichuk had a terrifically rustic location in the Deer Lodge in Banff, Alberta (hey, I wonder if this was near where Until Dawn takes place), but even that can't save it. The dynamic of the trio is immediately awkward, as Jenny (Riva Spier) and Marty (Murray Ord) are presumably together, but when he's not being entirely insufferable as a character, he's hitting on Chrissy (Sheri McFadden). I wanted to like Jenny as the Final Girl, but it's really hard to look badass while wearing snow pants.

Riva Spier as Jenny in Ghostkeeper.

Also, I was promised a "Windigo". A hairy man locked in a room does not a Wendigo make, good sir. I understand that this was a tax shelter film and the money ran dry (good on you for finishing), but there's only so much time I can watch people wander around dimly lit corridors, before I begin to lament the time ticking by. It's like even stalwart composer Paul Zaza knew this wasn't worth the effort because he basically just gussied up his score for Prom Night and called it a day.

As Ghostkeeper plods on, it's impossible to ignore that this movie is aping The Shining. Marty goes from douche to psycho in no time flat, The Deer Lodge is a serviceable stand-in for the Overlook, and there's even an old dude who comes to save the day that is offed the same as Scatman Crothers. I'd like to give Makichuk & Doug McLeod the benefit of the doubt (Kubrick's opus hit screens six months before this movie went to camera) but the evidence in onscreen.

I have to point something out I've clocked into recently. Jack Torrance has to be one of the most copied characters in horror. And I'm not just talking back-in-the-day, filmmakers are still doing it now. Recent offerings like Bo Mirosseni's History of Evil and Mike Bafaro's Don't Look Away both went sideways by shoehorning Torrance into their leads.

But I digress. You know, I probably should've waited until New Year's to watch this, as that's when it takes place. In fact, with the hotel location and (relatively) young folks, it shares a lot in common with 1987's Bloody New Year. How is it possible that BNY is the more exciting and palatable of these two options??? At least that one had actual ghosts...

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