A Town Full of Ghosts review

Found footage horror/thrillers are arguably the trickiest to pull off. The genre doesn’t allow for an abundance of new wrinkles and relies solely on the execution of the premise.

A Town Full of Ghosts has an interesting enough idea, but quickly stumbles under its weak foundation and underwhelming presentation. 

Mark (Andrew C. Fisher) and Jenna (Mandy Lee Rubio) have essentially sold everything to purchase a deserted ghost Western town. We’re spoiled right away of their eventual fate, so we know this won’t end well for them. 

a town full of ghosts review - jenna and mark

Director/Writer Isaac Rodriguez has the right idea with the initial setup. Mark and Jenna come off likeable enough, but the more Mark shares information about this project the worse it sounds. The town is three hours away from anywhere. Given the state of development that seems dubious, but let’s play along. Naturally there’s no water, Internet or cell phone service so if things go bad there’s no help around the corner. 

Mark is communicating with his YouTube followers via an expensive satellite service. Considering their shaky finances this seems like a poor use of funds.

It doesn’t matter to Mark who’s somehow convinced this ghost town can be a major destination attraction. He’s all in with this idea even though there’s little evidence that he could possibly turn a profit.

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This is the biggest narrative challenge of the film. Mark’s dream seems so unfeasible to the point of complete irresponsibility. On his own that might work, but Rodriguez offers little explanation why Jenna would play along with this money pit scheme. The state of their finances turns out to be an insignificant plot point, yet it draws attention to the fact that Mark and Jenna needed a better reason to be here.

a town full of ghosts review - the murderer in the maze

A few more potential victims arrive with Mark’s cousin, Justin (Ali Alkhafaji), his girlfriend, Lisa (Lauren Lox), and groundskeeper Billy (Keekee Suki). Mark called Justin in to record the early days of establishing the town, but it’s really so Rodriguez can keep Mark and Jenna on screen at the same time and play out real conversations without engaging the livestream viewers. 

Justin notices Jenna isn’t thrilled at Mark’s plan and Lisa is even less amused, understanding the need to leave ASAP. Mark’s hype mood gets upended when his investor pulls out the funding, labeling Mark a salesman who never delivers. It doesn’t feel like he’s far off with that assessment. And there’s some disconnect as Jenna tells Lisa that Mark doesn’t drink, but every chance he gets he’s taking a swig of something. Even if it’s a mysterious shot glass with a bloody fingerprint on the other end. 

Rodriguez adds another element to the film by introducing an urban legend with an axe-wielding killer, Madame Mary, and a mass grave site conveniently located under the maze attraction Mark finds so fascinating. The maze might have made for a thrilling final act location, but Rodriguez continually revisits it to the point of spoiling its role in the conclusion. 

a town full of ghosts review - the maze

Too often Rodriguez throws in the standard horror movie flourishes like creepy music and jump scare style edits. These rarely work in a found footage presentation since those should come off more organically and obvious transitions and musical accompaniment 

The performances are adequate, but that could be a function more of the script. Fisher is game for the quick shift from quirky YouTuber to demented psycho, but it feels too abrupt. Likewise, Rubio can’t make dialogue like “I think all of our lives might be in danger” sound credible. 

As far as the big final act, it’s equally disappointing. The killings and jump scare payoffs come off more like a bad haunted house attraction. It comes off too corny and cheesy to effectively deliver the thrills Rodriguez envisions. If nothing else, the film’s brief run-time of 67 minutes ensures it’s not an excruciatingly long outing.

a town full of ghosts review - jenna and mark arguing

A Town Full of Ghosts quickly squanders its potential and doesn’t have much to offer the found footage genre. 

Rating: 5 out of 10

Photo Credit: October Coast

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