GHOSTKEEPER is a film that I did not hear of until I saw it on a shelf in the horror film section of Blockbuster Video many years ago. Originally released on VHS by New World Video circa September 1990, the film is listed under American Cinema Marketing for its 1981 USA theatrical release; I cannot honestly say that I even recall that. If you have seen GHOSTKEEPER on VHS and weren’t a fan of it I would recommend giving it another chance as that transfer was very dark and therefore difficult to follow. The film has been released by Code Red DVD and is a nice spooky Canadian tale for a cold winter night.
The film begins with a title card that reads “In the Indian legends of North America, there exists a creature called Windigo…a ghost who lives on human flesh.” Larry Fessenden made a very under-rated film about this subject in 2001 and it was called WENDIGO. This film attempts to bring this subject to the screen, but apparently due to money issues this plot point never quite gets off the ground.
Jenny (Riva Spier), Marty (Murray Ord), and Chrissy (Sheri McFadden) are several friends who end up at a closed up hotel while snow-mobiling. They make their way in and make themselves at home. It becomes apparent that the owner is there, and she’s an elderly woman (Georgie Collins) who tells them they must leave.
When the three friends partially convince her that they cannot leave in the storm, she sets them up in their own rooms. The woman has two sons who live there, too, and one of them ends up killing Chrissy and dragging her to the basement to the Windigo creature.
Marty and Jenny start to behave differently and their actions appear to be influenced by something in the hotel. Before long, strange things happen and the film’s ending raises more questions than it does answers.
The film was shot in December of 1980 and while there are similarities to THE SHINING (1980) a lot of that appears to be coincidental. The DVD is a special edition and it contains a running commentary with the director and the two lead stars who play Marty and Jenny; the commentary is moderated by Jeff McKay. This is the first time they have all been together since the film was shot, and they have a lot of fun reminiscing about their experiences making the movie in addition to commenting on the on-screen action. It’s a highly enjoyable experience, so be sure to give it a listen after watching the film.
There are some nice extras included on the disc. In addition to some behind-the-scenes shots there is an extended interview with Georgie Collins, the woman who plays the elderly woman who runs the hotel. In her mid-80’s when the interview was conducted, she is very sharp and highly engaging.
The film to DVD transfer has been done from what is reported to be the only known existing 35mm print of the film. It is in fairly decent shape, and the imagery is a lot clearer than the VHS transfer.
The film was shot at the Deer Lodge at Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta, Canada. The director mentions that he would like to begin shooting a sequel to the film next month, believe it or not! He has an intriguing premise for that film starring the people who are in this film.
GHOSTKEEPER is not the usual type of thriller associated with Halloween, and there are those who have probably seen it and contend that it’s a boring film. But, give it a chance, as it is different and provides the perfect sense of creepiness for Halloween.
The film has a terrific score by Paul Zaza who also scored CURTAINS – these are two scores that should be released on CD. He is best known for PROM NIGHT and MY BLOODY VALENTINE. Some of the music in PROM NIGHT has appeared again both here and in CURTAINS.
Interestingly, there is a completely different opening to the film on the Spanish videotape that can be seen here on Youtube, and no mention of this is made on the commentary.