A little ghost story that could in all the right ways, I Am a Ghost brings a new flavor to the haunting film and does so with plenty of flair. Directed by second time filmmaker H.P. Mendoza, this is a brief chiller that finds countless ways to remain fascinating as it tells its tale.
The film opens with a series of repetitive events following a woman named Emily (played by Anna Ishida), and as I watched it I started to wonder if there were times when the film had accidentally rewound itself. We see the same events several times, and each occurrence of each event seems a little stranger than the last. We see that Emily lives in a big house, seemingly alone, and we get that her day is filled with repetition and routine. And then we see that she's terrified of one of the rooms in the house. And then things repeat. It's a little excruciating to watch the film go through these motions early on, mostly because I kept pushing back against my chair waiting for that ghost from the title to show up. (To be honest, I even paused the movie and ran to get a hoodie to protect me at one point. Scientific evidence that doesn't exist yet shows that you are much less likely to be scared while cozy in a hoodie. And this movie made me feel like I needed one.)
Then we get our first major reveal, which isn't a big surprise, but is about as far as I will go in explaining the twisting and wonderful plot of I Am a Ghost. The devil is in the details (metaphorically, this isn't that type of film), and all you need to know about I Am a Ghost is that writer/director Mendoza and his talented star know exactly what they're doing as they lead you on the film's journey.
I want to point out that the path that the filmmakers set for the viewer is non-linear, but that seems too simple of a term for what I Am a Ghost does. Non-linear, to me, signifies events that occupy different places on the same continuum, and the most intriguing aspect of I Am a Ghost is the realization that we are not dealing with a normal series of events. A keen observer of the film should quickly realize that things aren't quite right for Emily, and much of the film's charm comes from trying to figure out just what is going on and how Emily can escape this routine that she is trapped in. The film does a pretty good job of laying out what we can expect from it, but it never seems to jump to the place or time that we would expect to be the next logical step in Emily's journey.
Which brings me to the topic of fate, a topic that must be dealt with throughout the film. There's a moment just after the reveal that I hinted at earlier which really shook me up. Emily explains a tragic event to another character in a shockingly vivid manner and I - wrapped in my hoodie and trying to figure out just what is going on in Emily's world - suddenly found myself shaking my head and hoping beyond hope that the events that are being explained don't end up happening on screen any time soon. It says a lot about a horror movie when it can tell you about a horrible thing and make you never want to see it happen, and it's a testament to the writer and the actress that this dilemma is set up so wonderfully by such a simple sequence.
And then we get to the film's final act and, well....the easy thing to say is that the train goes off the rails in the best possible way. Expected things happen, unexpected things happen, and everything adds up to a final sequence that will surely keep horror fans talking long after the credits roll.
There's very little not to like about I Am a Ghost, a one of a kind haunting tale with an excellent lead performance and all the right supports. It's also a beautiful film, with inviting settings and nice practical effects that make the unique narrative that much more engaging. I've been thinking about I Am a Ghost for almost 24 hours now, and the more I do, the more impressed I am. Mendoza has created a smart horror film that maintains a primal edge, and the film's ability to make me think while I'm shivering in my seat makes it a rare treat.
For more info on I Am a Ghost, be sure to check the film out on Twitter or Facebook and/or check out the official website (which, coincidentally, currently has a nice blog post that features friends of FMWL Chris and Mike from All Things Horror Online). Or, if you don't want to go anywhere else, come back in about a month and I'll probably mention it when I talk about my favorite genre films of 2012. I AM A GHOST (Reviews Trailer #1) from H.P. Mendoza on Vimeo.