The Ghosts of Edendale DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Lightyear Entertainment
Written and Directed by Stefan Avalos
2003, Region 1 (NTSC), 90 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on October 19th, 2004
Stephen Wastell as Kevin
Paula Ficara as Rachel
Andrew Quintero as Nolan
Louis Pepe as Alex
Keith Fulton as Julian
Robert Lane as Edward
Maureen Davis as Rose
When Kevin and Rachel move from New York to Los Angeles to write screenplays, they seem to find the perfect house in the hills of suburban Edendale. From the moment they move in, things seem to be going their way. A beautiful environment, friendly neighbors — who seem a little too eager to give them a hand moving in — and a house that just seemed to fall into their lap. Apparently, the previous renters just up and moved out when they became missionaries. It's nice how things work out sometimes. Or appear to.
Soon after moving in, Rachel — a former model and actress — gets a phone call with a job offer. Five days, $5,000. It seems like a great opportunity for some quick cash. However, Kevin is not too pleased. Apparently, Rachel previously had some sort of breakdown because of her work, and part of the reason she and Kevin moved out to L.A. was to start anew. And it doesn't help Rachel’s mental health when she sees something wacky in the house the first day they moved in. That’s right. The very first day. Heck, the general rule of thumb for ghosts is they wait at least a week — give the mouth-breathers a chance to settle in. But, in Edendale, the ghosts are a little more efficient than their fellow haunters, and they jump on an opportunity as soon as they see it. Needless to say, Rachel neglected to mention her “experience” to Kevin, possibly out of fear that her issues were arising again. So, after some discussion, they decide it's "one last time," and Rachel leaves for a weeklong shoot.
When Rachel returns home, she finds Kevin has quit smoking, started working out and changed his hairstyle — and has become completely cold-hearted — among other things. In short, Rachel returns home to a completely different person than she left.
Now Rachel must uncover if she is going crazy (again) or if the people around her the crazy ones.
The Ghosts of Edendale has three really good things going for it.
Story, character development and subtlety.
The story is a good story. Here you have a woman who has a history of mental problems. She goes away for a week and, when she comes back, her boyfriend’s personality is a complete 180 from when she left. But is it him who has changed, or are her old issues creeping up on her again? The viewer, of course, knows it is not her going nuts. But, in her situation, what is she supposed to think? Which leads to the character development.
Remember, Rachel saw something creepy the day the moved into the house. She didn't mention it to Kevin because she didn't want him to think she was going crazy again. But, as more things happen between her and Kevin and her and the neighbors, she starts to think she may very well be going crazy.
In reality, there is something wrong with the people who live in the Hills of Edendale. She’s the "normal" one. But because of her past, she is not sure.
Both Stephen Wastall as Kevin and Paula Ficara as Rachel are really good in their roles. Wastall, with his Willem Dafoe looks and voice, pulls off the Patrick Bateman-like character extremely well. And it’s not that Kevin is threatening Paula, it's the fact that he just doesn't care. She tells him she's going back to New York. He says okay, bye. Is it a compliment to say Wastall nails the sociopath role as if he were born to do it? I think so.
And then there is Ficara really nailing it as Rachel, the woman who thinks she may be slowly losing her mind. If you take a look at Rachel in the first five minutes and then the last five, she is two completely different people. Appearance aside, she managed to change her entire demeanor — from the look in her eyes to the way she carried herself. Ficara was very impressive, and she has the potential to develop into a "Hollywood" actress.
In addition, the supporting actors who play the neighbors are great as these people who appear to be normal — then you see their underlying evil. It's not so much their words, but their subtle actions. And there you go. Subtle.
Edendale has a lot of things going on in the background that the characters don't see, but the viewer does. There were times I saw something drift by in the background, but, when no one on screen brought it up, I suddenly wasn’t so sure. Kudos to the director for not spoon-feeding me and letting me figure things out for myself. If only Hollywood would take note.
That said, I have to admit there was one scene that was not only not subtle, it was a double whammy. First, it scared the hell out of me. Then, when I thought it was over, the resulting scene creeped me out. Watch for it.
The CGI in Edendale deserves a mention because it is one of the very few movies with its kind of budget that uses CGI well. The CGI is used extensively throughout the movie, but it never looks hokey or fake. An extremely well done job with the special effects, considering what the filmmakers had to work with. Let’s be realistic, they didn’t have Star Wars-type effects, but I’ll take The Ghosts of Edendale over Jar-Jar Binks any day of the week. The use of CGI sets the example for not only other low-budget movies, but some Hollywood blockbusters, as well.
Video and Audio:
The Ghosts of Edendale is presented in matted widescreen. Like most lower budget movies, the day shots look good, but the darker scenes do suffer from grain. The colors are muted, but it works to the films advantage because it adds to the surrealism of the story.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital Soundtrack sounds really good, even if it’s a little weak on the bass. While there is a lot of use of the rears and left and right speakers, the subwoofer gets a little lonely, as not a lot of attention is given to it.
Vincent Gillioz's score is very good. Similar to Mark Snow's score for TV's "The X-Files" and it complements the film nicely due to it's atmospheric, supernatural sound.
English, Spanish and French subtitles are available.
Two commentaries are offered in the bonus features. The first commentary, with writer/director Stefan Avalos and producer Marianne Connor, is wasted if you don't listen to it. There is a lot of great information about how the movie was filmed and very little of the "so-and-so did great here" too often heard in commentaries. This a must-listen for any fan interested in the making of movies.
The second commentary is just a waste. An isolated music score with composer Vincent Gillioz, it consists of a lot of dead air between songs because Gillioz says very little in the commentary. Fortunately, I was working on this review as I was listening to it, but I did have to lean back on a few occasions to see if the TV was still on.
The three featurettes included are a case of good, better, best.
The "Behind the Production" featurette is a fun watch. It's more of a home video on the filming of the movie — there is a lot of footage of the location, as it was filmed at Avalos' house, but you can see how many different jobs each member of the crew did and the good-natured camaraderie of the cast and crew.
The "Behind the Special Effects" featurette is a great look into how the CGI was done. It's in-depth and informative and, like the Avalos/Connor commentary, a must for you aspiring movie makers.
The cream-of-the-crop, however, is the "Re-Making of a Scene" featurette. Taking a scene that at first just didn't work, Avalos explains in detail the changes made from the original shots to the final scene that made the movie. The beauty of it is all of the footage was kept, so you can watch the changes from beginning to end as Avalos goes through the reasons. A fascinating behind the scenes featurette.
Rounding out the features are deleted scenes (with optional commentary by Avalos), a trailer and effects production artwork.
|– Great story, character development and performances make this one a pleasure to watch.
|– The video suffers in some scenes, but it's far from unwatchable.
|– It's nice to see a low-budget movie use the 5.1 Dolby — and use it well — as opposed to 2.0.
|– The featurettes and director/producers commentary are quite enjoyable.
|– Between the movie and the special features, this is a great Friday night rental at the least. With it's $19.95 msrp, it's a good buy. as well.
The best way to describe The Ghosts of Edendale is as a low-budget The Shining. Don't take anything away from Edendale because of that. It's not a rip-off of The Shining, it just has a similar story line. Here you have a guy who seems pretty stable. Good boyfriend, good head on his shoulders, wants to do well for his girl. But after living in this house for a couple of weeks, he becomes a completely different person, really through no fault of his own. When you add that his girlfriend has issues, you get a terrific story about two different people descending into madness for two different reasons.