SPIRITS IN THE DARK * Hungary / UK / USA 2019 Dir: József Gallai. 70 mins
Writer-director-star Jozsef Gallai follows earlier forays into found footage horror (BODOM, MOTH) with this meandering story of a melancholic widower (Gallai) with a penchant for poking around old abandoned buildings. When we first meet him, his wife and daughter have died under tragic circumstances and he has received a video tape from a long-term friend, featuring what appears to be a female ghost in a large decrepit construction.
Much of the movie consists of his self-filmed, first-person footage of the place he likens to Pripyat. A series of underwhelming discoveries and events – his car starting by itself, letters in the nearby woods, fake teeth and masks (“Probably indie filmmakers came to shoot a horror movie?”) – eventually yields a non-scary, mystery-solving ghost. Ponderous beyond words, though shot in and around an effectively foreboding location, this descends into repetitive and uneventful scenes of Gallai wandering around, accompanied by his breathing and banal voiceover, failing to generate the intended sense of dread with statements like “This wasn’t the wind!” and “Wow, that’s one hell of an atmosphere”. After about half an hour, you can feel yourself age.
Review by Steven West