Film Review: “Ghost Light”

“Ghost Light” is superstitious nonsense at its best

The first thing you will notice about director John Stimpson’s “Ghost Light” is its stellar ensemble cast.  Stimpson has managed to assemble an acting troupe beyond worthy of an off-season stint in a New England barn.  Incidentally, this is precisely the setting for “Ghost Light” and the lush Massachusetts landscape where it was filmed is both immediately recognizable and immersive.

The cast of “Ghost Light” features a number of recognizable faces.  From L-R:  Sheldon Best, Alex Portenko, Scott Adsit, Roger Bart, Steve Tom and Carol Kane, Cary Elwes, Nolan Gerard Funk, and Caroline Portu.

Anyone who has worked in a theatre knows the fundamental rule about Shakespeare’s Scottish play–never say its name.  The ubiquity of this particular superstition among both actors and crew is essential to the plot of “Ghost Light,” as it is a flagrant disregard for avoiding the utterance of “Macbeth” that sets the plot in motion.  Actor Thomas Ingram (played by Tom Riley) is jealous of Alex Pankhurst (Carey Elwes), who has been cast as the titular would-be king.  When he brashly shouts the cursed word on stage with a little help from his lover Liz Beth (Shannyn Sossamon), who also happens to be Alex’s wife, strange things begin to happen.

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Cary Elwes as Alex playing Macbeth after an accident improves his performance.

The plot of “Ghost Light” moves slowly.  Those interested in a bevy of jump scares or an especially bloody farce may not get what they’re looking for.  But the gradual unraveling of both Tom and Liz Beth as they experience hallucinations and unsettling dreams is certainly intriguing.  When wayward hiker Juliet (Danielle Campbell) arrives and catches Tom’s eye, Liz Beth’s madness seems less a manifestation of a curse and more a reaction borne of jealousy.  Sossamon’s performance as a woman sliding between fact and fiction is especially worthwhile, and helps anchor the film as a whole.

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Shannyn Sossamon is exceptional as the equally doomed Liz Beth and Lady Macbeth.

Throughout “Ghost Light,” there are moments that perhaps could have been pushed further.  Some horror effects are better than others, and a few of the subplots seem to take up time that may have been better spent elsewhere.  Overall, it’s a fun little farce that weaves together theatrical superstitions to create an entertaining film.  Even if you see some of the twists coming, it’s worth taking the ride to get there when the third act reaches a satisfyingly insane crescendo.  The audience knows that this particular production of the Scottish play is doomed from the start; it’s just that its fate is ultimately more bedeviled by the supernatural than poor acting or ambivalent management.

“Ghost Light,” directed by John Stimpson, co-written by Stimpson and Geoffrey Taylor, and starring Cary Elwes, Tom Riley, Roger Bart, Carol Kane, Shannyn Sossamon, Danielle Campbell, Scott Adsit, and Steve Tom is currently available for streaming on Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, Vimeo, and FandangoNow.  More information can be found at

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