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Monday, February 7, 2022

‘Ghosts of the Ozarks’ Review – Horror Western Loses Itself to Sluggish Pacing and Muddied Mystique

James (Thomas Hobson) is a young doctor who is called upon by his uncle Matthew (Phil Morris) to bring his services to a small Arkansas town. Traveling through a post-Civil War world, James is initially weary of the town and its inhabitants; however, he comes to find the town to be delightful – even if it is surrounded by ghosts.

Written by Jordan Wayne Long, Tara Perry, and Sean Anthony Davis, directed by Wayne Long and Matt Glass, Ghosts of the Ozarks is at first a puzzling and mundane tale; it is only after going along with the film for a great deal of time that its thematic points begin to shine, but even those are a tad too muddy in delivery.

Prior to arriving to the town, James comes across a man looking to do him harm. After a brief altercation, a red fog approaches the two and sucks James’ assailant into its clouds. Later, James finds out that these are the spirits that linger around the town that Matthew oversees. Matthew strives to protect the inhabitants of the town from the outside and ensures James that he has nothing to fear within these walls.

This ghost element is by far the most interesting aspect of the film, and yet, there isn’t much plot action surrounding the subject. The townsfolk are complacent and accept the existence of the spirits, with James being mostly apprehensive in believing. One might assume that these ghosts are a prominent component to the film, and to be fair, they do make several appearances in-person and through a couple of James’ dream sequences. Those moments are scarce though, for Ghosts of the Ozarks spends most its time meandering to and from sequences of James’ daily life.

From the friendly Lucille (Angela Bettis) to the charming Douglas (David Arquette), to the cool Torb (Tim Blake Nelson) and the sassy Annie (Tara Perry), the town is home to lots of good folks that James interacts with. Some of his conversations involve the ghosts outside the walls, but a lot of the plot focuses on him getting used to his new doctor role – while teasing that all may not be what it seems. Besides some minor creepy moments there and then and a couple dead bodies, the primary focus is on James’ life and his random duties within the town. As a mystery film, Ghosts of the Ozarks prompts one big mystery for the audience to wonder – is anything really going to happen plot wise? The audience may become more curious over time as small bits of detail are hinted at, but those points linger more in the background, rather than getting the proper time to build up on suspense.

Well, things do happen, just much later into the film. Which is wild because the performances from the main cast are excellent. Each person has a presence to them that is easy to latch onto, enjoy, or be intrigued by; so, it’s a damn shame how wasted those performances feel for a great chunk of the film. There is a point that Matthew repeats which makes more sense as the film reaches its third act. Apologies for the vagueness, for the point does represent a big twist. By the latter second act and third act, a lot more begins taking place narratively, making for a nice payoff regarding all the mystery that has been building up. Yet, it all feels like a lot thrown at the viewer just a little too late.

Ghosts of the Ozarks indulges too much in its meandering pacing, keeping its interesting narrative points just in sight, but never exploring far enough to hook the viewer into its greater mystery. While the characters are great, those characters linger among a mundanity that isn’t all that investing. Stick around long enough, eventually Ghosts of the Ozarks will treat viewers to an intense narrative – but that thrill burns out and feels lackluster, ending the film on an odd gray note.

Ghosts of the Ozarks is now available on VOD outlets.

The post ‘Ghosts of the Ozarks’ Review – Horror Western Loses Itself to Sluggish Pacing and Muddied Mystique appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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