Ghostkeeper (1981)

So we’ve come the end of 2021. Was it better? Did you have a good time in 2021? I mean, 2020 was pretty shit. 2021 started real rough. I think we corrected course just in time to get back in the muck again. Sure there were deltas and omicrons and probably even persei 8s. But did you take care of yourselves? I mean it, my dear Enemaniacs, I hope you took care of yourselves. I hope if you had to recover from 2020, you did so. I hope if you tried to do something to better yourself in 2021 you were able.

We’re closing out the 22nd year of the 21st century with a film from the 20th.

This week’s film, Ghostkeeper, is a somewhat appreciated moody spirit movie from Canada with some traces of The Shining. Now, I know we’ve had a sketchy history with Canadian horror, but I’m promised that this is an atmospheric movie. It also at least starts on New Year’s Eve. That’s kind of awesome because there aren’t too many movies I can cover that run congruent to the day.

There’s not a whole lot to say about this movie without diving right in. The movie was made right at the end of 1980 as a tax shelter movie. It had inconsistent funding throughout its production and it was in danger of being shut down at one point. It was made in the Calgary area and mostly used locally hired actors and such. It was filmed on location at Lake Louise and Banff National Park in Alberta.

So let’s just get in here and do this thing!

The movie opens with a title card about the Native North American legend about the creature known as the “Windigo” (NOT Wendigo, which is, in some possible circles, a slightly different thing – but sometimes it comes down to semantics and who you talk to). Basically this is a ghost who lives on human flesh. So, it’s like a ghost, but also like a beast. That’s kind of a neat idea. However, if you’ve heard of the Wendigo, that’s a living man-beast who eats human flesh but waits for it to come to it in the woods. The Windigo possesses and then devours. Both appear in writings about cryptozoology of northern North America. However, there is some discrepancy over the distinction and how much is Hollywood creation, how much is folklore, and how much is just the sort of stuff that ends up like the various other cryptids all over the world.

Things get started with a couple coming into a store to warm up after snowmobiling for a bit. It’s kind of obvious the couple, at least Marty, the guy, is from the city. He kind of makes some jokes at the expense of the remote storekeeper. He then goes on to ask the guy why he hasn’t left for Ft. Lauderdale where there is no snow. Now, don’t mind me being a bit of an observer here, but isn’t this guy currently spending his winter with his girlfriend in the Canadian Rockies on snowmobiles instead of going to the beaches of Florida?

After the old shopkeeper gives Marty a little bit of snark back to prove he isn’t some sort of dumb bumpkin, Jenny and Marty are met by a third snowmobiler, Chrissy. She’s ditched her boyfriend to look for some adventure. Chrissy and Jenny seem a bit cold to each other. Chrissy says she thinks there must be some exciting things to do out here in the mountains. The shopkeeper says that the trio better stick to the roads because the mountains can be very tricky. Chrissy says she’s getting bored again and decides to leave. The shopkeeper says they would be better off heading back to the lodge because a storm is coming and there are worse things than getting lost in the mountains. There appears to be a little bit of something between Marty and Chrissy because he’s more than happy to follow her for the adventure. Jenny, much kinder to the old man, and more likely to kind of follow his advice, is kind of drug along since her boyfriend is leaving.

I should point out that the old shopkeep is played by Les Kimber. Now, he’s not a big name or anything. He only appeared in nine movies in his career. What he really was, by trade, was a production manager and unit manager. He didn’t just work on localized Canadian movies. No, he was the Canadian production manager for the first three Superman movies. That’s a pretty significant set of movies he worked on. My assumption would be that he worked on the scenes that involved the Fortress of Solitude. They specifically point out Alberta was the production team he managed. Considering Superman IV didn’t use that as a location, the evidence kind of lines up.

The trio head out into the mountains before sundown on their grand adventure that 66% of them want more than the other side. Chrissy spots what appears to be a path. Marty wonders if it is an old logging road. Jenny is a bit concerned for multiple reasons. First, there are no tracks in the path. Marty waives that off as simply no one has gone down that path since the last snow. Second, she is a bit concerned about going off a beaten path. Third, she’s worried about it getting dark. For those last two concerns, Chrissy asks if Jenny is scared. I think I’m only rooting for Jenny to get out of this movie alive.

Jenny: “Bitch, what’s your problem?”

Chrissy gets her way by basically peer pressuring Marty with the whole “I thought you didn’t follow the rules” line. We see that the snow is deep, the trail is long, and there’s a sign that reads this is private property and to be kept out. They keep going and going and going. The snow seems to be getting deeper and deeper too.

But it looks like they may have just found what they needed – the Overlook Hotel.

Jenny doesn’t like the idea of staying around. The house appears to be quiet and it’s hard to say it’s even occupied. Marty wants to check it out. Jenny thinks they should go back asap. Chrissy presses forward, because of course she does. She wrecks and Marty seems very content with helping her to her feet, calling her a “beauty”, and teasing her about non-existent injuries. Jenny seems really unhappy with this.

When Chrissy’s snowmobile won’t restart, Marty sees this as the perfect opportunity to do exactly what he wanted to anyway – check out this Deer Lodge. They walk up the snowdrifts to the front door and have to force it open. Inside, it doesn’t look like anyone has used this lodge in years. Again… Marty and Chrissy tease and flirt with him spooking her and her pretending to be royalty checking into the lodge. I’m really not liking Marty and Chrissy and I think I’m not supposed to.

Marty goes to look around the place. Everyone is curious how the place is warm when no one has stayed there, based on the sign in logs, for five years. Clearly someone has to be around. Eventually, Jenny decides hanging out in the lobby with Chrissy is not ideal, and goes to check out the resort as well. She finds a cat in a room, and a closet that has linens and shotguns. Marty has found the resort’s restaurant and kitchen. The place is not in disrepair or even dusty. It’s just… empty.

Marty discovers the storm the shopkeeper warned about has hit. It’s gotten quite snowy and there’s no way they’ll be able to leave until morning. Just imagine someone having to come to that realization after being warned by a local that the shit gets back in the winter and then hearing your own girlfriend, who you don’t pay as much attention to as you do the blonde who just wants to do stupid shit all the time, also warn of this. Anyway, Jenny finds a room in the lodge that has a window wide open. When she closes the window and looks out at the storm, she hears someone whisper her name.

“Mmm-hmmm yyyes I’ll be your mean girl for this movie…”

Jenny wonders if anyone back at the lodge has noticed they’ve gone missing. Chrissy says they are all probably too drunk to notice since it is New Year’s Eve and all. Jenny then says she thinks they are not alone in this lodge. Chrissy wonders if she thinks there’s a vampire in the place. Marty smirks at the suggestion. Jenny says it was more like a presence, not a monster.

Anyway, Chrissy wants to play Truth or Dare and tells a story about having a wet t-shirt and how she wanted to fuck for money when she was 16 years old.

Jenny is unimpressed, but I think Marty has a massive boner. Marty decides to go looking for booze because that’s probably not a great idea. He gets jumped by an old lady. Or possibly Ozzy Osborne.

Jenny tries to calm the old lady. When both Chrissy and Marty ask the old lady questions, she doesn’t take her eyes off Jenny. Jenny explains they only came here to avoid freezing to death outside. The lady says they can’t stay there. Marty, in his infinite shitbag sarcasm, says they are actually three polar bears who really do prefer being outside, but they thought they would change it up for the night. I kind of think I want Marty to be eaten. Actually, not kinda… I really want him to be eaten. This is entirely his fault. He used his dick like a divining rod to point wherever Chrissy wanted to go. And where did they end up? Trapped with a woman who refuses to let them stay in a snowstorm.

The woman holds firm that she does not want them to stay. Chrissy thinks she has no authority – despite it being her house. Jenny explains that they will not leave. The old woman applauds her toughness. Marty asks, annoyingly, what the old lady’s deal is. She doesn’t like being asked questions. She talks about having lived there all her life. She even calls out that, while she may not like answering questions, Marty doesn’t like not asking questions. She does say she isn’t alone. She has her boy and the mountains to keep her company.

But her boy is around… somewhere.

The old lady takes the trip to a room to sleep. She tells them that the hotel closed because of no business. She lets Chrissy into her room and shows Marty and Jenny to their room, but notices that Marty is with Chrissy at the door to her room seeing that she has everything she needs. Seriously, I think I liked Vanilla Ice in last week’s movie more than I like this Marty character.

Eventually, Marty comes into their room and the couple don’t have much to say to each other. He prefers to look out the window. Jenny prefers to ask if Marty would like to fuck Chrissy. He says that it isn’t like she owns him and it’s always like she wants to start shit with him. He tells her that they can live their lives how they want as long as she remembers who pays the bills.

I fucking hate Marty. I want to punch him in his punch face.

He is gonna go to the bathroom. She wants him to admit what he’s really going to go do. He calls her crazy and scared that she’ll turn out like her mother. The old lady listens to the couple arguing and smiles.

Chrissy goes to the ladies’ bath to clean up. She doesn’t not invite Marty to join her. He doesn’t, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did later. Outside the bath, the old lady sneaks around.

I’m almost halfway through this movie and I will say this… It’s very good at the slow burn. This movie’s budget was an issue. Therefore, it couldn’t use elaborate sets or a large cast. We’ve seen a total of five people in this cast to this point, and I can’t promise we’ll see that many more. The thing is, one of the kind of lukewarm positive reviews for this movie stated that it knows how to do some things better than others. For example, it couldn’t blow you out of the water with a big idea script. It worked smaller and it relies on the characters and the acting. It’s got touches of The Shining in there and I can kind of see it. There’s a place that has a power in it that might exacerbate the personalities and faults in each character.

There’s a palpable feeling of weight to everything around these characters. They are carrying some baggage into this that we only got clues on earlier, but have now come out in full. Now, I’m wondering if maybe these issues between our three main characters are going to feed this spirit in the resort or if it will be the other way around. Yes, I have a major issue with the Marty character, but that’s working for what it is and how it plays out in this movie. Chrissy is maybe a little too vapid and doesn’t really care about anyone or anything but what she wants. Maybe there is something more to Jenny’s apparent jealousy issues.

Well… I don’t think I have to worry about Chrissy anymore. While she bathed, what we thought was the old lady running about was actually her son, Danny, he sneaks into the bathroom and seems to drown Chrissy in the tub. However, we see that he grabs her and takes her to this room made out of ice cubes where another guy, our Windigo, is waiting. Danny slashes Chrissy’s throat and leaves her for the Windigo to store in the freezer.

Jenny goes looking for her, but the old lady finds her and says she’s up pretty late tonight. She then tells Jenny that she’s getting too old for her job at the resort. She likes that Jenny is tough and that she would be good for her job. Before she can say anything else about what she means by any of that, Marty comes along and asks what’s happening with the ladies. The old lady returns to her room while Marty goes to check on Chrissy.

Later, Jenny apologizes to Marty for how she’s been so fearful of being crazy. She wonders if she’s going through a phase or just insecure. Marty says, “But you really jump on my case a lot.” Swell dude. She suggests that maybe he shouldn’t call her names and they can work a little harder to get their relationship right. He asks her if she wants the relationship to work. She doesn’t know. She says it’s too hard to think in this place.

That night, she’s woken up again by someone, or something, whispering her name. She hears someone moving around the hallway. We see the old lady walking around. Jenny goes out into the hallway to see what’s going on. She hears the old lady talking to someone. She asks if “it has been done” and says she’s not mad at the person she’s talking to because it had to be done. She thinks she sees Jenny is listening from the top of the stairs, but Jenny just goes back to her room.

The next morning, Marty goes outside to get the snowmobiles unburied and working again. He sees that a wire has been severed in the engine that is preventing Marty’s snowmobile from restarting. Chrissy’s snowmobile is gone as is she. Marty confronts the old lady as she is butchering some meat. She claims to know nothing about the machines. She also says that Chrissy has already left, but there are no tracks leading away from her snowmobile. Marty decides to go outside to look around in the shed he spotted outside, and leaves Jenny behind to “babysit” the old lady.

The old lady becomes much friendlier around Jenny. They have a cup of tea together. Jenny says she thinks the old lady knows what’s going on with Chrissy but isn’t saying. She also believes the old lady doesn’t work at the hotel. She confronts her about who she was talking to the night before, and then demands information about the missing Chrissy. The old lady tells her she needs to save her strength for when she really will need it.

Jenny decides to look at the view from the lodge’s lobby, and realizes that her tea was drugged. The old lady and Danny come in just before she passes out. In the shed, Marty finds a bloody axe and an elk hanging above it. He goes back to deal with his snowmobile while Jenny comes to in the old lady’s room. She finds a book on “Indian Legends of Canada”. She reads a passage about a flesh-eating giant who could be kept by females who had a special power.

Jenny finds her way to the freezer – the room made of blocks of ice. She’s egged on by the voice calling her name. She goes inside and finds the Windigo inside. Danny comes with a chainsaw to chase her away. He chases her upstairs, but not with the chainsaw. Probably just to grab her and take her back to the old lady. She hides outside on a landing on the top floor. She tricks the guy and pushes him off the landing where he’s impaled by the fence. Jenny runs out to Marty and tells him that the old lady’s son tried to kill her and they have to leave because there’s a monster in the basement.

Marty suddenly turns away and goes to the shed. She asks what’s wrong with him an after several minutes, he comes to the realization that she killed that guy. He’s kind of dazed and doesn’t seem to be all there. He barely even reacts to seeing his snowmobile being blown up by the old lady.

Things get a little more kooky when Marty finds some grease in the shed and puts it on his face like war paint. He starts babbling about losing control and going crazy. He’s also kind of holding onto Jenny pretty tight. He tells Jenny that she shouldn’t have killed that guy. He then says he’s gotta go and get help now. He’s talking like either a child or a dummy. It’s like he’s lost all his intelligence.

Marty decides to go walk to find help. It should be noted that the old shopkeeper has gone looking for the trio too. He arrives at the lodge while Marty is ignoring Jenny telling him that she knows where there’s a gun in the lodge. The shopkeeper goes looking for someone at the lodge, but the old lady kills him with a giant ass knife. It’s a moment that’s very easy to say was probably inspired by The Shining when Scatman Crothers was axed by Jack Nicholson when he comes to help Wendy and Danny.

Jenny has decided to return to the lodge to get that gun. Marty is still walking around in the deep snow. The old lady has recovered the body of her son from the fence. Jenny gets to the shotgun and even finds the shells. The old lady finds Jenny and she claims the shotgun doesn’t work. She also apparently knows Jenny has some issues with her sanity. She then says Jenny should know who she is – she’s her mother now. Jenny’s real mom is dead, but this old lady is trying to claim otherwise to confuse Jenny.

When the old lady reveals she’s carrying the knife behind her back to stab Jenny, Jenny blows the old broad away. I think it might have been a misstep for the old lady to play the “I’m your mother” card. You know, considering Jenny has issues with her mother that she deals with. Jenny goes to the freezer and lets the Windigo know that everything will be okay because she’ll be taking care of him now. She finds Marty outside. He’s close to freezing to death. Jenny says she’ll be back for him. She returns to the lodge and looks over the place before sitting in the chair in front of the fire. The old lady’s voice is heard telling Jenny everything will be fine and things will be as it always was.

To be completely honest, I really liked this movie. Sure, there are limitations that the movie couldn’t really overcome, but what it could do is done very well. The characters are compelling even when you don’t really like some of them. There’s a mood to this movie that builds through the first two acts before things get pretty bad for our main characters. The acting is pretty top notch, though, and that’s this movie’s strong suit. In particular, Riva Spier as Jenny and Georgie Collins as the old lady. They really put this movie on their backs and are compelling characters to watch and be engaged with. Georgie Collins ended up having about a 30 year career in movies and on television. She’s really good and really creepy in the scene in which she is trying to convince Jenny she’s her mother. Riva Spier got her start in David Cronenberg’s Rabid as the wife of Murray Cypher who probably ate a baby. She ultimately got a lot of work as a voice actor doing English dubs of several anime shows and movies.

In all, I really recommend this movie as a good winter time horror movie. It would make a good match for either The Shining or even possibly The Brood (another Cronenberg classic) because of the mental health and cold weather elements. Word on the street, they planned to have a much bigger scale conclusion to the movie, but I don’t think I’d like the idea of a big chase with Jenny and the Windigo. I think I like how soft the landing is.

Either way, grab yourself a cup of hot tea and cuddle up in front of the fire with this movie.

That does it for 2021. 2022 will kick off with a whole month of Andy Sidaris classics. I’ll start with Picasso Trigger in one week! If you want to know when things happen, follow B-Movie Enema on Facebook and Twitter. While, for the moment, there is no new episodes of B-Movie Enema: The Series coming until May, there are things coming in the next couple weeks, so why not go over to YouTube and subscribe to the B-Movie Enema YouTube channel? Things will be cropping up there soon. But, until next week when we take off for the sunny beaches of Hawaii with Andy Sidaris, have a wonderful and safe New Year and have my hopes for you and yours to have all your resolutions be successful.

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