A Ghost Waits is a slight but impressive calling card of a film boasting two genuinely notable performances.
An oddball, micro-budget supernatural rom-com, Adam Stovall’s A Ghost Waits absolutely radiates with easy-going charm. Cute without being cloying, sweet but not saccharine, it’s as far from trend-chasing and ironic posturing as you can get. Aesthetically speaking, it’s barely a step up from an accomplished student film (hardly an insult; everyone has to start somewhere, and small, regional film fests are full of nigh unwatchable misfires), but the casting is pitch perfect, and everyone is so likable that you might not care that the cinematography is a washed-out, fake digital approximation of black and white. MacLeod Andrews stars as Jack, a handyman for a property management company that cleans up and maintains rental homes after tenants move out. When the current residents inexplicably break their lease and flee in the middle of the night, Jack is assigned to check the house out, make sure everything is in working order, and maybe see if he can figure out why tenants keep leaving. These early scenes are just Jack alone in the house, making phone calls and talking to himself. Thankfully, MacLeod is a remarkable talent, funny and ingratiating with an easygoing charisma. It’s not long before Jack figures out that the house is haunted, and his increasing exasperation at the various ghostly antics is an early comic highlight. Soon, Muriel (Natalie Walker) reveals herself, and Jack, quite reasonably, flees. Realizing he doesn’t have his car keys, he ventures back into the house and refuses to leave until his job is done, much to Muriel’s chagrin. But she’s intrigued by this goofy guy who is not only not scared of her, but seems willing, even excited, to get to know her.
Walker has a difficult role, playing a centuries-old specter with a halting, theatrical way of speaking butting up against MacLeod’s more relaxed naturalism, but she pulls it off. Less successful are scenes that attempt to flesh out a kind of afterlife bureaucracy, led by Ms. Henry (Amanda Miller), that assigns ghosts specific homes to haunt and keeps tabs on their progress. They’re unhappy that Muriel can’t get Jack to leave, and so assign a younger ghost named Rosie (Sydney Vollmer) to assist in the removal. There are some laughs here, particularly Rosie’s insistence on modern scare tactics juxtaposed with Muriel’s more classical style, but it feels like a sub-Tim Burton riff and only manages to extend the film’s already very brief running time. Still, there’s some pleasure in the low-fi haunting antics, and as Jack and Muriel’s relationship deepens, you might find yourself genuinely invested in this mismatched couple. Tack on a genuinely striking ending, and A Ghost Waits fixes itself as a pretty decent calling-card flick, with at least two performers we should be seeing a lot more of in the future.