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3 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Ghosts of Edendale, The
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by Brian McKay

"Sittin' down here in the campfire light, Waitin' on the Ghost of Tom Mix"
4 stars

While I can always appreciate a well-crafted ghost story, I’m especially intrigued by the ones that owe their origins to the Hollywood of yesteryear. What better way to make such a fascinating era even more so, than to throw in a heavy dose of the macabre – and filmmaker Stefan Avalos (THE LAST BROADCAST) has done just that. Using an absorbing mixture of historical fact and supernatural fiction, THE GHOSTS OF EDENDALE is both a creepy and effective spook show, and a metaphor for the seductive nature of “The Industry”.

Rachel (Paula Ficara), a semi-retired model, and her writer boyfriend Kevin (Stephen Wastell), are two East-coasters who have grown weary of the New York lifestyle. They decide to make a clean break by moving out to Hollywood and trying their hand at a screenplay. They get a lucky break when they find a bungalow for sale at the top of Edendale drive, in Hollywood’s historic Silverlake district (the previous tenants having vacated the place in a hurry under dubious circumstances). Not only does it have an excellent view of the Hollywood hills, but all of their neighbors are involved in the film industry, providing a wealth of potential contacts. They affectionately refer to the neighborhood as “The Hill”, and as it turns out, The Hill has a rich history of its own. Long before it was a suburban neighborhood, it was part of legendary movie cowboy Tom Mix’s turn-of-the-century ranch and film studio.

Not long after they settle in, that history begins to manifest itself in various ways – some benign, like Rachel finding an old spur buried in their backyard, and some downright creepy. At first Rachel shrugs off the eerie visions, attributing them to flashback hallucinations resulting from a nervous breakdown she experienced a few years prior. But when she notices extreme changes in Kevin’s personality after she returns from a weeklong photo shoot, she realizes that not everything going on in the house can simply be attributed to nerves. Even more unsettling is the way in which their neighbors tend to shun “undesirables”, chasing away anyone who doesn’t fit in with the Hill people. Although the group embraces Kevin, Rachel becomes the outsider, as she struggles with both her ghostly visions and Kevin’s increasingly hostile and erratic behavior.

The opening sequences of Ghosts of Edendale tend to drag a bit (until Rachel discovers a nasty surprise in the closet, that is), as the actors settle into their roles and the story sets the up the proper mood and tone. But despite some occasional stiffness in the two leads, and a few moments of forced-sounding filler dialogue here and there, by the time Ghosts of Edendale hits the second act, it finds its stride and delivers an engrossing ghost story, with some fascinating tidbits of Hollywood history and a progression of very creepy imagery. Using a technique called “Rotoscoping”, effects supervisor Scott Hale creates a series of ghostly apparitions that look as if they stepped out of one of Tom Mix’s old silent films. Although they have a blurry and unpolished look to them (by design) compared to the average big budget (read: overblown) Hollywood CGI apparition, they are far more effective at raising the hair on the back on one’s neck (especially one fantastic sequence of a ghost rider chasing Rachel up Edendale drive, the city behind him fading away to reveal the barren Hollywood hills of a century prior).

Shot on Digital Video, the film occasionally takes on a very dark, grainy, and washed out look – especially during nighttime scenes. However, while this can occasionally make it difficult to tell what’s happening on screen, it also tends to work in the film’s favor as it sets up the next big freak-out. A few of the nighttime scenes, in which the Hollywood sunset can be seen in the background, are particularly stunning.

Considering that, in a way, this is a glorified home movie (It was shot on location in Avalos’s real-life Hollywood bungalow), Avalos and company show exceptional finesse in turning the mundane into the macabre. Slated for a Halloween 2004 DVD release, THE GHOSTS OF EDENDALE should be on the must-own list of Hollywood ghost-hounds everywhere.

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originally posted: 03/25/04 08:31:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Horror Film Festival. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Horror Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/28/08 Rooster No words for the movie but Paula, WOW what a lady. 2 stars
3/02/06 Jane Hightower Nice to see a thoughtful, non-bloody horror story again 4 stars
7/25/05 Indrid Cold A few creepy moments make this slightly above unwatchable. 2 stars
5/01/05 J Layman Simply astoundingly bad in all aspects. 1 stars
2/01/05 Mary Anne Loved this movie! Creepy! Loved the special effex. 4 stars
11/07/04 greg paula is one totally HOTTT!!! young lady!!! 4 stars
10/25/04 thismoviesuckedrealbad this movie was so horrible, FROMAGE 1 stars
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  19-Oct-2004 (R)
  DVD: 19-Oct-2004



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