Canada

Wicked Wednesday: Ghostkeeper (1981)

Ghostkeeper is weird. And I mean that in a good way.

It’s commonly classified as a slasher, but it’s sleeker in many ways. It’s one part The Shining and another part rooted in First Nations Algonquian folklore. It’s cheap, but it’s beautiful. It’s strange, and it’s actually kind of wonderful.

Initially, the atmosphere of the movie reminded me of Bloody New Year and Bill Rebane films like The Capture of Big Foot and The Game. This probably swayed me into thinking this was going to be of the same calibre because of that. And in some ways Ghostkeeper is because of similar eras and (presumably) budget constraints.

And it does start out on a familiar path: A group of friends leave their cosy lodge to go snowmobiling. They meet a Harbinger of Doom, who warns them to go back before an incoming storm.

Jenny appreciates the warning and insists that her boyfriend Marty heads back. But ol’ Marty has a thing for Chrissy, their pal from the lodge, and would much rather impress her by going off trail.

The three take a trail through some private property, leading them to a seemingly abandoned lodge. When they enter, though, they discover that it is warm. Despite the warm welcome, they realise that no guests had checked into the hotel for nearly five years.

When the storm does arrive, the kids settle in for the night with a bottle of wine by the fire. Their night quickly takes a turn when Marty bumps into a woman in the kitchen. While initially hostile towards them, Jenny is able to calm the woman down and convince her to let them stay in the lodge for the night.

That night, things take even more of an odd turn. Chrissy is nearly drown in her bath by the woman’s son, Danny. He drags her into the basement where there is a cell of ice blocks. She’s wed to a windigo, which is in the form of a man. Jenny and Marty are too busy to notice at first, as they argue about Jenny’s increasing paranoia.

The following morning, Marty and Jenny realise that the snowmobiles are not working. They also cannot find Chrissy. While Marty tries to repair the snowmobiles, Jenny searches for their friend. Instead she finds the older woman, who is evasive about Chrissy.

The woman drugs Jenny, who wakes up conveniently next to a book about Native American folklore. She reads about the windigo and links it to the murders from the surrounding area.

As she tries to return to the main part of the hotel, she is confronted by Danny. She tries to escape, but their scuffle leads to Danny’s death.

With Danny’s death, Marty begins to act strangely. He declares he won’t help Jenny, that she cannot escape being a murderer. He eventually leaves her to trudge off into the snow by himself.

Left all alone, Jenny tries to defend herself. She shoots the woman, but soon discovers that the deaths of the woman, Marty and Danny only spell out her own damnation.

It’s a perfect little movie for a snowy night in. The scenes are stunning, set in the snowy Canadian Rockies. The acting is also above-par, particularly Riva Spier as Jenny and Georgie Collins as the older woman (the titular Ghostkeeper).

Occasionally it’s easy to jump to conclusions from early scenes. It would have been very easy to turn it off, believing it to be another run-of-the-mill slasher. But Ghostkeeper has a bit more magic to it that sets it apart from others. Granted, I would have liked if the film dived deeper into it’s lore. It rarely takes the time to flesh out its story, instead focusing more on the movements of characters.

Maybe it’s because I was taken by surprise, but I think this Canadian gem is well worth the watch.