Ghost stories have been on a roll ever since Ringu gave the world a new template for the supernatural. As such there has been no end of horror movies about begrudged malevolent spirits out to raise hell – or at least your hair. I was expecting just that when firing up Last Kind Words. I mean, just look at the poster: this girl just looks pissed and ready for revenge.
But it is completely deceptive and I’d wager a guess that the marketeers had no idea what to do with this movie. Last Kind Words does not feature a dead-eyed banshee from hell. It has no creatures crawling on ceilings or staring from behind tables. There are no strange noises, ominous moving of items or wide-eyed kids talking about the strange lady in the bathroom cabinet. No demons, ancient cults, unnerving visions or horrific massacres. This is not even a horror. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a damn fine ghost story.
Our protagonist is Eli, a teenager who moves with his depressed, temperamental and abusive father to a remote farm owned by a family friend. The father’s life has clearly hit hard times and he is taking this frustration out on everyone around him. Not long after arriving Eli meets Amanda, a teenage girl he encounters in the forest nearby the house. As his home life unravels, he takes solace in befriending her and Amanda is very keen to be his friend as well. But soon he realises that Amanda is not alive and there is something darker behind her story.
Now as mentioned earlier, this is not a horror. The movie does not try and hide Amanda’s ghostly credentials – after all, even a cursory glance at the synopsis gives away who she is. But it doesn’t push them either. For example, there is no single piece of special effects in this film, except one nightly encounter with an animal in the forest. The ambiance plays more off uncertainty than pushing spooky buttons and even the usual camera tricks to make you jump are not seen here. Last Kind Words is not a scary movie, but it was never meant to be. If a comparison to something else could be drawn, perhaps The Lovely Bones comes closest.
But they are not the same either. Last Kind Words is a slow burn between a drama and a thriller, something it does incredibly well. The story is thoughtful and the characters very natural particularly with accomplished thespians such as Brad Dourif in the mix. The lead actor is a little limited in range, but he doesn’t drag the movie down and, other than the slightly nonsensical epilogue, Last Kind Words is a solid thriller that accomplishes a lot with smart writing and good actors.
Last Updated: October 29, 2014