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Urban Ghost Story
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by Scott Weinberg

"Who'd want to haunt a slum in GLASGOW?"
4 stars

Halfway through this somewhat dry (yet never really boring) British horror flick, Billy Boyd pops up as a ruthlessly evil and profane drug dealer. That alone, the sight of my favorite hobbit screaming about SMACK and SHITE, elevated this quiet little paranormal thriller into something a little more enjoyable. Little Pippin slingin' heroin in a Glasgow tenement! Unreal!

The setting is a grim and grungy apartment building in Scotland; 12-year-old Lizzie (Heather Ann Foster), recent survivor of a horrific car crash that claimed her young boyfriend's life, is convinced that her apartment is now haunted. Creepy noises at night, disturbing dreams, furniture that seemingly moves all by itself...basically all the standard elements that make up a haunted domicile.

Lizzie's Mom enlists the aid of a local tabloid reporter, whom she promptly hops into bed with. (Mom does, not Lizzie!) Before too long the apartment is taken over by an army of reporters, parapsychologists and experts on the occult. Each offer their own theories on the otherworldly troublemaking...or maybe it's all just in Lizzie's head.

Borrowing liberally from precursors like The Entity, The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist (basically any movie with a spooky home), Urban Ghost Story still works - despite its reliance on a laundry list of obvious inspirations. The flick is shot in an unremittingly grim style; the apartment building and the surrounding neighborhood add a more-than-effective dose of grey, gloomy settings.

The whys and the wherefores of Lizzie's kinship with the newly-arrived apparitions make up the bulk of the plot. Obviously this all has something to do with the car accident that opens the film. Is Lizzie's family being stalked by a pissed-off poltergeist, or has the young lady acquired some sort of 'powers' thanks to the traumatic car crash?

Plus there's that damn drug dealer who keeps terrorizing everyone. It's not Billy Boyd's fault that his Lord of the Rings persona has retroactively made his performance here an unintentional hoot, but that's precisely what it is.

"Urban Ghost Story" surely isn't the flashiest or most unique spin on the old Haunted House tale, but here it's delivered with an impressive amount of atmosphere and a screenplay that capably manages to keep you guessing most of the way. Taken as a late-night cable-type time-waster, you could certainly do a hell of a lot worse.

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originally posted: 04/28/04 07:46:43
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  02-Nov-2000 (R)



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