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Sunday Scaries: It’s Terrifying How Emotional ‘A Ghost Story’ Remains

"A Ghost Story" (2017) Cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo

The Sunday Scaries are upon us once again! Yes, as the weekend concludes, most of us feel an oncoming sense of anticipatory dread about the week ahead. Anxiety about work manifests itself into a feeling that’s known as the Sunday Scaries. However, we at Awards Radar are here to combat that, by taking back the name. Now, we want you think about a horror-centric piece on the site when you hear the term. So, let us continue on with another installment of the Awards Radar Sunday Scaries! This time, I actually want to talk about something that uses the trojan horse of what could have been horror and instead goes very deep into the human experience and existence in general…

“A writer writes a novel, a songwriter writes a song, we do what we can to endure.’

Before it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, few actually expected David Lowery to be delivering a horror movie with A Ghost Story. Getting Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara to reunite with their Ain’t Them Bodies Saints filmmaker was unlikely to result in a fright flick. Even Lowery himself teased on social media before the Sundance debut that it was going to be different. Then, people saw it. To call it different is an understatement. However, it’s also brilliant.

For those who don’t know, the film follows C (Affleck) and M (Mara) before, during, and after the former is killed in a car accident. Post death, C continues on as a ghost, depicted in a simple white sheet, as he haunts their home, trying to sustain a connection with his wife. That is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg, as hinted at in this official IMDb description:

In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife.

“A Ghost Story” (2017) Cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo

For me, this is a deeply emotional experience. It’s also wildly thought-provoking, as all great cinema should be. Small moments, as when our ghost sees another ghost, just waiting for someone, and how that is resolved, just can make you crumble. The simple emotion of it all as C watches M grieve, before she begins to move on, is (no pun intended) haunting. Then, Lowery opts to make the third act as ambitious as anything, tackling existence, time, and our literal place in the universe. All of that is wonderful, but it comes back to the emotions for me.

Grief, for both parties, is devastatingly depicted here, especially if you’ve dealt with any sort of a sudden loss. C doesn’t have expressions, but his frustration at literally being unable to connect, is likely to rip your heart out. Likewise, M has more overt actions, including the infamous pie-eating sequence, but just watching her listen to his music will make you think of any similar moment in your own life. It’s all high concept, low-fi, and expertly crafted/executed.

A Ghost Story also features a monologue (seen below) that may well scare you more than any horror film could hope to. Had it not worked, it would have brought the movie to a screeching halt. Instead, it’s a unique way to hammer home the themes at play. This is just a small bit of it:

“We build our legacy piece by piece and maybe the whole world will remember you or maybe just a couple of people, but you do what you can to make sure you’re still around after you’re gone.”

While it wasn’t scary, it was actually quite unsettling to experience for that first time, and it remains a profound work. So, even if this may be a bit of a cheat, I wanted to use this as an excuse to bow before the perfection that is A Ghost Story yet again…

Stay tuned for another Sunday Scaries installment next week!

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Written by Joey Magidson

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