REVIEW: ‘A Ghost Waits’ (2020) is a Heart-wrenching and Hilarious Horror Comedy

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Ghost Waits creates a delicate tonal balance of humor, genuinely tender moments, and existential dread that never lets the audience escape the emotional turmoil of life and death.”

For the millenia that humans have inhabited Earth, there’ve been two pressing questions that haven’t been given concrete responses: what is our purpose while living and how does that translate after our deaths? Filmmakers have been tackling this question for as long as film’s been around. From Caspar the Friendly Ghost to The House that Jack Built, the afterlife, its inhabitants, and their relationship with the living has been explored in hundreds of different ways. There’s always one constant: the deceased always have or develop some idea of what they’re spending their afterlife doing. But, what if ghosts were just as confused about their purpose as the living?

A man screams with blood covering his face.
Image courtesy of Rebecca Films

Adam Stovall’s debut feature A Ghost Waits explores the dynamic between two equally aimless individuals: handyman Jack (MacLeod Andrews) and spectral agent Muriel (Natalie Walker). Unbeknownst to Jack, the two have had a symbiotic relationship for years: Jack fixes up the apartment Muriel haunts, Muriel scares the tenants away, Jack comes back to clean up and the cycle repeats again. It’s just the way things have been, that is until Jack and Muriel finally meet and things derail quickly. A Ghost Waits creates a delicate tonal balance of humor, genuinely tender moments, and existential dread that never lets the audience escape the emotional turmoil of life and death.

A pale woman looks over at something.
Image courtesy of Rebecca Films

Jack enters A Ghost Waits as a down on his luck handyman. He’s houseless, none of his friends are willing to help him out, and he’s stuck cleaning out the same half-vacated apartment again. His menial tasks are supplemented by him anthropomorphizing and ranting to household appliances. The build-up to the visible hauntings takes a while, but Jack’s dreams, marked by an Inception style ticking metronome, provide the existential dread in spades. When the haunting does begin they’re basic and a little humorous as far as ghost hauntings go – a necessity on a microbudget, but still effective. Murial reveals herself as a last-ditch effort to remove Jack. She’s dedicated to keeping the house vacant because she believes the house called for her post-mortem, a fact dispelled by her supervisor Ms. Henry (Amanda Miller). As Muriel and Jack begin bonding over their new lack of guiding light, the ghost bureaucracy sends in a snappier, scarier, Samara-like reinforcement Rosie (Sydney Vollmer).

When Rosie, Muriel, and Jack collide an hour in, A Ghost Waits drops the comedy and takes a sharp turn for the philosophical. A long, soul-bearing sequence about changing to fit the whims of others and the fear of being unlovable and doomed to be alone ensues; it’s long, candid, and emotionally draining. However, it’s a satisfying lead up to the emotional climax of the film, which ends in the two together no longer weighed down by the whims of others and eschewing the meaningless structures separating them.

Official poster for A Ghost Waits. The illustrative head of a woman looms above a man on a black blackground.
Image courtesy of Rebecca Films

The true meaning, or lack thereof, of existence and what humans do afterwards may never be answered. A Ghost Waits doesn’t really seek to answer it. Instead, what starts as a campy horror comedy morphs into a blunt dive into how, although life may have no meaning and we may be reduced to the same menial tasks, having someone to spend the meaningless time with is a worthy distraction.

Dir: Adam Stovall

Prod: Adam Stovall, MacLeod Andrews

Cast: MacLeod Andrews, Natalie Walker, Amanda Miller, Sydney Vollmer

Release Date: March 6, 2020 (UK)