The air of invincibility and the curiosity of children often lead to trouble, but it also leads to some very good horror stories. For this week’s #ShortMovieMonday, I caught Lee Cronin’s Ghost Train. While beautifully shot, it manages to not only tell a compelling horror story, but it also sets it up wonderfully with an even better back story.
Ghost Train is a 16 minute journey into our childhood fears. One time friends Michael (Owen McDonnell) and Peter (Steve Wall) meet up for their reluctant pilgrimage to an abandoned amusement park. Michael, with something obviously weighing on his mind, is greeted by Peter at the train station. Peter is quite happy to see Michael, but Michael gives him the cold shoulder. While Michael has run from the skeletons in his closet, Peter has tried to drink them away.
The two head off and end up in the creepiest haunted house rides I’ve ever seen in my life to pay respects to their friend Sam (Matthew Broe). The funhouse resides in an abandoned amusement park, and its visitors are greeted by a giant hooded skeleton on its roofs. It’s arms are outstretched across and its bony fingers grip the corners of the building. Dead birds, pagan symbols, and severed heads hang from wires under its cover. A skull with an open mouth awaits eagerly for its payment. The track is rusted and old, and you might require a tetanus shot after sitting on its train carts.
Throughout the film, we are shown a terrifying backstory explaining why the two are here. Sam disappeared during their first visit here, and Michael and Peter are portrayed by two very gifted child actors Matthew Dillon and Sean Gormley. Sam, Michael, and Peter ventured into the park and onto the ride. While Michael and Peter attempted to start the ride, Sam sat anxiously in the train cart. As Michael put in coin after coin, the house began to come to life. The skeleton’s hands began strumming. The skull’s eyes lit up. Gears turn, and the old house began emitting a roar that would horrify a child even in the liveliest of amusement parks.
Writer/Director Lee Cronin does both a wonderful job of not only setting up his tale of horror with a great backstory, but he also manages to tie it masterfully to the payoff of the film. The story is not told chronologically. The flashback sequences appear throughout the film, and by the time we realize what the characters shouldn’t do, we don’t know if this is a tale of the supernatural or simply children keeping secrets they shouldn’t have. Visually, it’s stunning. From the overhead shot that opens the film to the house awakening to the rolling fields near the end of the film, he sets the mood perfectly. Seriously, stay tuned to Cronin’s projects. He’s going to be big.
The kids in this film give performances that rival their adult counterparts. Young Peter, Michael, and Sam set the tone and grown Peter and Michael hit this out of the park. Their characters manage to stay whole from one actor to another. Props to everyone involved here. The most interesting character of the film has got to be the funhouse. It is nightmare evoking, and seems to come to life under Cronin’s watchful eye.
Ghost Train premiered at the 2013 Galway Film Fleadh (Ireland), and is making the festival circuit this year as well. Over the weekend, it opened the Twisted Celluloid Festival and is scheduled for a couple others this year. According to Cronin’s website (www.leecronin.com), you can request a viewing of the film Ghost Train via email as the film is currently not public. It is definitely worth a watch and should dominate the festival circuit this year. You can follow director Lee Cronin on twitter at @curleecronin.