Movie Review: Workman finds he’s not the only one punching a clock at a haunted house — “A Ghost Waits”

Suppose you’re a ghost, happily haunting this house, chasing away every potential tenant with a steadily escalating series of “unexplainable” events — empty rocking chair that starts rocking, a metronome that clicks on by itself, doorbell ringing on its own, doors opening, cabinets shutting.

And then this fellow shows up who gets mildly creeped out, realizes he’s on the clock and just barks “No, NO” at every new supernatural manifestation you summon on?

Do you check back with your “spectral agent” manager? Up the ante? Summon Beetlejuice?

Or maybe you negotiate, bargain and cajole in an effort to get the place all to yourself, return order to the whole ghosts vs. People Afraid of Ghosts universe.

That’s the adorable set-up to “A Ghost Waits,” a rarely spooky, sometimes funny, overreaching romance no-budget indie whose creators almost certainly would take it as a compliment if told “It looks like it was shot on a cell phone.”

It begins as a deadpan monochromatic comedy and grows rather less interesting as it drifts from that mission statement. But it’s still a novel approach to a ghost story and well worth watching if a lighter version of “A Ghost Story” interests you.

Co-writer MacLeod Andrews is Jack, a handyman who contracts out to a rental company to evaluate their homes, in between tenants, and either do repairs or arrange them. When we meet him, he’s trying to wrangle a place to stay for a few days while his place is fumigated, and nobody is returning his calls.

Thirtyish with no real friends you can lean on? It makes a guy wonder.

This house he’s supposed to inspect and prep for new renters presents a problem. It looks as if the previous tenants abandoned it, and all their stuff. He can’t do but so much “until all this stuff is gone.”

Neal, on the other end of the phone, isn’t having it. He needs this job rushed through, this house ready to rent. And he needs an answer.

“See why everyone breaks their lease and leaves it.”

We have more information than Neal or Jack. We’ve seen a montage of a previous family chased out by this Goth-girlish apparition (Natalie Walker).

As Jack sings along to his radio and leaves taped-reminders of all the power outlets, appliances, etc. that he’s checked and/or need further attention, he’s missing all this stuff going on behind him — rocking chair rocking, door closing, cabinet opening.

Jack’s dreams take on a “Shining” vibe — served drinks in the attack by a ghostly doppelganger.

We see him stalked from the ghost’s point of view, a camera just above and behind her capturing her walking up, invisible to him, singing along as he sings, starting a metronome, ringing the doorbell, throwing a crying baby’s wails into other rooms.

An actual appearance is what usually seals the deal. Muriel (Walker), all pale and veined, wild-haired and with an ungodly howl, presents herself to Jack and scares him.

Only it doesn’t take. He’s got work to finish, and Muriel, as he comes to know her? She’s more interesting than alarming, at least to him.

The earliest scenes sell the joke, and a cute soundtrack of bouncy, upbeat and off-color/mordant songs by Margaret Darling set the tone.

And then they go and suck all the wind out of the picture with dry arguments between Muriel and her third-wheel supervisor (Amanda Miller) who brings in a fourth wheel. Static, less funny and not-exactly-romantic exchanges with Jack ensue, who admits this “no real friends” life isn’t working out — “There’s no RECIPROCATION!” — and Muriel answering a lot of questions, profound and inane, about being a ghost.

“We prefer ‘spectral agent.'”

It’s a winning concept and not awfully executed, although the acting isn’t very good and the chemistry between the leads is thus pretty tepid. The ending stings, but the narrative’s taken a turn up a dead end before that, making this 80 minute movie feel longer.

Still, as indie “spectral agent” dramedies go, it’s worth a look and offers a few laughs if little else.

MPAA Rating: unrated, profanity

Cast: MacLeod Andrews, Natalie Walker, Sydney Vollmer and Amanda Miller

Credits: Directed by Adam Stovall, script by MacLeod Andrew and Adam Stovall. An Arrow Films release.

Running time: 1:19

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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