November 7th, 2017
Review by Mark Schwab
I think ghost stories are getting tougher and tougher to pull off. Mainly because there are fewer and fewer ways to make the initial concept truly surprising or scary (a rare example of a fresh take with a minimal budget would be H.P. Mendoza's I AM A GHOST). Writer/director Clay Moffatt's THE OCTOBER FLOWERS certainly attempts a different spin on the genre but as with his previous THE SILVER WOODS, his execution falls short of his ambitions and ideas.
It begins with Danielle and her boyfriend Ben attending to dealing with her just-deceased grandmother's house. Danielle is pretty sure she just wants to sell it since she and her grandmother were estranged. But as she and her boyfriend start to get things in order, Danielle realizes that her grandmother had a few secrets tied to this house specifically and now they are coming back to literally haunt them.
It's revealed early on that the house is home to a cadre of other ghosts who have died there. Each ghost actually has an intriguing backstory to tell and are fairly colorful on paper thinking back on it. Unfortunately, the revealing of these other ghosts and their storylines mainly consist of them stepping out of a shadow and explaining the story in simple exposition. This is a similar problem he had with THE SILVER WOODS - cast members just talking the whole plot instead of using visuals to drive the story - although there is less of it overall in this film. Also the expected meeting of Danielle and her grandmother falls disappointingly flat considering the foundation Moffatt lays for it - opportunity missed.
As the ghost storylines start to intertwine with Danielle and Ben's relationship and the mystery of the "october flowers" comes to light, I realized that the ideas and characters presented here were clever and had the potential to draw in an audience. But Moffatt's budget and cast holds him back - the acting is either stilted and one-note or hysterical scene-chewing/yelling and the lighting is flat and one-dimensional. However, there is no question (in my eyes anyway) that this film is an improvement over his previous feature THE SILVER WOODS. Here, the composition of shots is much stronger, the sound design is smoother and the editing is tighter and more effective. This is a more polished piece and shows more control of the form even if it never generated any real suspense or scares for me. This film was easier to stay interested in all the way through which shows a lot of progress.
I'd really like to see Clay Moffatt get a decent budget, experienced crew folk and more professional actors for his next film. He has some nifty ideas as a screenwriter and they deserve the resources to make them shine.