Thursday, 22 January 2015


An awful lot of the wonderful shorts and films I write about on this blog are from the United States. As the hub of the global film industry, this really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. But every now and then the odd gem crops up from a little closer to my home here in Blighty.
This latest offering is from our neighbours in Ireland, helmed by talented filmmaker and writer Lee Cronin.
Somehow the bleak familiarity of British and Irish horror films make them all the more terrifying to me. I’ve been to the States a handful of times but it still feels very much like a place far, far away from my world, while this often rainy little island and its dear close cousin just feel more real to me.
So will Ghost Train take full-advantage of this fact? Does it even need to? Read on…


Dir: Lee Cronin
Starring: Owen McDonnell, Steve Wall, Matthew Dillon, Sean Gormley, Matthew Broe

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: This is a short film, so I’ll try not to spoil too much, but read on at your own risk.

Uptight Michael (McDonnell) and damaged Peter (Wall) are brothers who see each other very, very rarely, but once a year, every year for the last three decades, the two make a sombre pilgrimage to an old, abandoned fairground.
Intercut with the scenes in which the true extent of the damage to the psyches and relationship of the men gradually becomes clear, we are given flashbacks to the two as boys. A mischievous young Peter (Gormley) is seen leading the younger Michael (Dillon) and their good friend Sam (Broe) to the very same fairground. Breaking into the site, the boys are aiming to sneak into the imposing and grim ghost train to help themselves to the horrifying props and decorations within.
What actually happened on that day 30 years ago? Do both brothers truly know the role they played in the fateful events of that day… and is it really over?

WHY IT WORKS: Holy crap did this one sneak up on me. I’d not heard of the short until Cronin kindly contacted me and asked if I’d like to review it — and I am so, so grateful he did!
Ghost Train is simply awesome!
This is a wonderfully simple, atmospheric short that tells a marvellously compelling and chilling story well. Lee Cronin is quite the story teller and the well-rounded rich world and characters made this short feel very much like an adaptation of a novel, the sort of work that horror fans might have come to expect from the likes of author Adam Nevill.
The use of non-linear storytelling to slowly unveil the horrors of the plot is inspired, while the film seems to have a rich mythology lurking just below the surface, one which I hope will definitely be explored in greater depth in the future.
It is a plot that touches on some very deep and very personal themes: the guilt that inevitably accompanies the grief that one experiences when losing somebody close to you and the intensely frightening period that comes as the innocence of childhood ends. These are hefty ideas and each is handled in a natural way, enhanced and mythologised through the fantastical narrative.
The characterisation of all the characters, both as boys and men, is tight, written to believable perfection and helped out no end by the wonderful performances of everybody involved. Wall’s Peter is fantastic, you can practically smell the desperation and despair seeping out of him, while McDonnell is excellent as the tightly wound ball of repressed guilt desperately trying not to unravel. The men ARE their characters and both give performances to be applauded. And somehow the young actors are just as impressive!
Child actors can be very hit and miss, but Dillon, Gormley and Broe are very much hits as the three carefree, likeable lads that end up way out of their depth. One of the things I loved most is that the boys didn’t come across as simple caricatures of childhood innocence, they were realistic — a bit grimy, not too clever but nor were they gormlessly naive. These were the sorts of boys I went to school with, the sort I played with as a child and, as such, it just made it all the easier to root for them and feel their fear when the world came crashing down around them.
There is one other character that deserves special mention — the titular Ghost Train itself. This was a brilliantly realised and terrifying structure, its huge looming reaper facade the stuff of nightmares, made all the more spine chilling through the clever use of incredible special effects. The scene in which the boys nervously insert their coins to gain access as the monstrous structure slowly rouses from its slumber, leaning forward with a malevolent hunger was one of the best I’ve seen in some time. Beautifully executed, horrifyingly real yet otherworldly and decidedly diabolical, the work done to create this unique horror monster is so good it could almost be enough to warrant my recommendation by itself.
Add in the excellent storyline and well-written characters portrayed expertly by a great cast of actors and it just seems all the easier. Yet that isn’t all that shines in this chilling little film — it is shot beautifully. The cinematography is absolutely sumptuous, the use of angles, light and shade and framing really heighten the atmosphere. The final shot, the denouement following the heart-stopping climax, is a true work of art: poignant, bleak and startlingly beautiful.
I suppose this is all too fitting, for these words perfectly describe this marvellous  short film. 

SO WHERE’S IT AT? The short has had quite the Festival run, and this looks set to continue into 2015 as the film finds an even bigger audience and continues to rack up awards. It really is well worth tracking down, so check out the short’s official Facebook page for updates on screenings — you should give it a Like while you do! As always I'll update this review as soon as I get details on a home release, so do check back every now and then for more information.

10 WORD WRAP UP: Childhood fears are reawakened in this bleak and beautiful film

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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