Title: Ghosts of the Ozarks (2021) Director: Matt Glass // Jordan Wayne Long Writer: Sean Anthony Davis // Jordan Wayne Long // Tara Perry Studio: XYZ Films IMDb Plot: In post-Civil War Arkansas, a young doctor is mysteriously summoned to a remote town in the Ozarks only to discover that the utopian paradise is filled with secrets and surrounded by a menacing, supernatural presence. Joe Says: Ghosts of the Ozarks has a ghost of a chance to entertain even the basest of genre fans.
Some directors thrive under the restrictions of a low budget, wielding any constraints to their benefit. Limitations are known and utilized. Expansive magic can be conjured with minimal resources. Robert Rodriguez exploded with El Mariachi. Spike Lee danced with She’s Gotta Have It. Darren Aronofsky painted the stark world of Pi. Small sets and unknown actors can bloom with guided imagination. Unfortunately, none of this spirited presence helped guide Ghosts of the Ozarks, whose self-proclaimed “gothic horror” might have only referred to the on-set catering.
The plot is simple – and one that should work with relative ease. James, a young doctor (Thomas Hobson), is invited to set up his practice in the remote, utopian town of North Fork in the post-Civil War Arkansas Ozarks. This town, of course, is set in their ways. They host their own internal secrets, while fighting off an external supernatural menace. Ghosts of the Ozarks had the potential to be gothic and creepy; low-lying fog and the full moon are every horror fan’s friends. The mystery could have been a slow, involved burn with Shyamalan-ian twists. Instead, the movie is hampered with sub-par acting, generic dialogue, and ridiculous Civil War cosplay. Truly, North Fork’s ghost wouldn’t even have kept the Scooby Gang overly occupied.
Co-directed by Matt Glass and Jordan Wayne Long – sharing the plot with his wife, Tara Perry, who also plays town sheriff Annie – Ghosts of the Ozarks must have been a film school dream project… and an investor’s nightmare. The chief highlight is Tim Blake Nelson’s Torb, a blind bartender and local badass with knives. That’s right. Tim Blake Nelson, goofy co-star of many a Coen Brothers production, gets to be the badass. And he performs well. Also along for the ride is David Arquette as a friendly-if-cowardly haberdasher. Both are underused. Their storylines impotently limp along with hints and teases to their – and the town’s – jokingly-secret connection to the monster roaming in the woods.
If Ghosts of the Ozarks had a style to its production, the amateur acting from its primary cast of Hobson, Perry, and Phil Morris as the town’s mayor, could almost be excused. But the movie looks flat and dull. The story is a dud that even Torb with a cleaver could not cut with any excitement. XYZ Films, the movie’s distributor, is known for chancy, genre flicks (Nic Cage’s Mandy, anyone?). Ghosts of the Ozarks has a ghost of a chance to entertain even the basest of genre fans.