Runtime: 1h 42m
Director: John Stimpson
Writer: John Stimpson, Geoffrey Taylor
Stars: Roger Bart, Tom Riley, Shannyn Sossamon, Cary Elwes, Carol Kane
A dark comedy about a disgruntled summer-stock actor who contemptuously disregards the superstition surrounding Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth. By doing so he unleashes the curse of The Scottish Play and wreaks havoc on the company.
Initial: Possibly not horror enough. But the cast… Cary Elwes? Carol Kane? And one of my favorites, Shannyn Sossamon?
Production Notes: Not being a theater person, I did not know what a ghost light was and was perplexed by two horror movies bearing the same name, both involving the theater, but having little else in common. A ghost light is a light left on in an empty theater, usually at center stage. I was somewhat aware of many of the other superstitions, including not saying “Macbeth” aside from during the actual play.
What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) This is a movie of two halves. The setup is slow. Tom Riley plays Thomas Ingram, a younger, better actor who has been relegated to a supporting role under Cary Elwes bumbling Alex Pankhurst. Also, Thomas is having an affair with Pankhurst’s wife, Liz Beth (Shannyn Sossamon). Thomas and Liz Beth jokingly invoke the curse of Macbeth, and Liz Beth (jokingly?) suggests that maybe Thomas should bump-off Alex. It’s not super complex, but it takes waaay too long.
Aside: I watched Back in Time (2015), a documentary about the movie Back to the Future. The point is made that in screenplays exposition should be avoided, but Back to the Future makes it work. Horror movies almost always need exposition. The audience, at some point, needs to be let in on backstory or secrets. (Or do they? Most of the segments in The Field Guide to Evil don’t bother because they don’t have time. Mostly, this isn’t a detriment.) Ghost Light explains the Macbeth curse…to Thomas, who isn’t a newb to theater. This is clumsy and doesn’t work. Djinn suffered from bad exposition too, involving a rather unrelated set piece in which locals explain the myths of the area to a dumb American. There *had* to be better ways of giving the audience this information…
The second half of the film is much better as Thomas and Liz Beth reap their comeuppance. There’s some supernatural aspects and a few scary moments. And a few funny moments throughout. I’d put Ghost Light in the same bin as High Spirits (1988): a film for when you want Halloween ambiance without being overly spooked.