New On Demand from Midnight Releasing!

THE SPIRITUALIST (2016)

Directed by Carl Medland
Written by Carl Medland
Starring Jasmyn Banks, Judson Vaughan, Petra Bryant, Arron Blake, Lee Knight, Ross William Wild, Ian Reddington, Jane Merrow, Julie T. Wallace, Alina-Jane Rose, Arielle Leigh, & Caroline Burns Cooke as the Spiritualist!

I admire what THE SPIRITUALIST is trying to do. It’s trying to be a thinking person’s ghost story, where the frills and extra CG isn’t as important as character and psychological twists and turns. The problem is that while the goal might be to be heady and emotionally resonant, you still have to have some kind of sights and sounds that will chill a bone or tingle a spine and THE SPIRITUALIST seems to forget about all of that.


Laura (Jasmyn Banks) is suffering from night terrors, visions of ghostly images, and other paranormal activity. So despite some reticence from her husband Jake (Judson Vaughan), the couple decides to call in a spiritualist—which is basically the role Lin Shaye plays in the INSIDIOUS movies or if you’re old school, what Zelda Rubenstein played in POLTERGEIST. A group of friends gather in Laura and Jake’s spooky old house to support her as she tries to deal with what she believes to be the ghost of her dead mother.

The most frustrating thing about this film is that there are so many times a person reacts to some kind of terror in the darkness, but we as the viewer never get to see what is getting their panties in a bunch. I understand this is a low budget film and there’s an age-old trope that the monster is not revealed in horror films until the very end, but this film takes it to an extreme level. Not only do we not see what is spooking these people, but once the ghost is revealed, it’s just an old lady who looks like my old gym teacher and not something that evokes shrieks and wails in the night. The film simply doesn’t deliver on the scares and thrills that the rest of the cast is supposedly experiencing.

On top of that, the film becomes overly convoluted towards the end as it has to resolve issues with Laura in both an emotional and psychological climax and wrap up the paranormal aspects of it all. There’s a weird and overlong flashback of the ghost manipulating the Spiritualist that is rough to get through. Plus the films ends with a beat that suggests that even the filmmakers didn’t know how to end this thing.

There are decent acting plays in THE SPIRITUALIST as well as some moments of decent tension (though the payoff to these moments are simply not there). It’s difficult to deal with spiritual issues in film on a low budget. The way the ghosts are dealt with here doesn’t really rely on crossing over to the light or photon packs. Instead it uses psycho-babble and New Ageism that simply makes the whole thing make me long for the spectacle many horror films go for. I hate it that I wanted a trope to happen, but it is better than the nothing-much that occurs in THE SPIRITUALIST.