That’s one thing I’ll be taking away from A Ghost Story, the most terrifying, bleak and lonely vision of the afterlife committed to screen since the 1998 candy-colored-psychosis hellscape What Dreams May Come starring Robin Williams, may he rest in peace.
Lord may I live forever because nope, nuh-uh, nooooo thanks.
OK, OK I’m being cheeky and overly literal here. And I’m doing it with love.
The truth is that A Ghost Story is truly unlike anything; a spooky, existential fairy tale that’s not actually suggesting that when you die, your enduring spirit stands around wanly in your beloved home, wearing a bedsheet with eye holes scissored out.
(Though to be fair, the main character does that. A lot.)
But he’s not the only specter present; the premise, too, is a phenomenon that haunts our conventions around the afterlife. A Ghost Story cannot be easily explained, and it certainly cannot be taken at face value.
At least let’s hope not. Because if what Casey Affleck’s ghost endures is where we’re going next watching loved ones move on, standing the same ground as epochs grind by in agonizing real time then count me out. At least the creeps of Beetlejuice have enough personality to keep things interesting; and Patrick Swayze, tormented as he is in Ghost, gets to make it right, kiss the girl, and walk off into the heavenly sunset.
Anything would be preferable to the Mbius strip continuity of A Ghost Story, whose horror is staring down eternal futility. Oh, I’m sorry, did I call it a horror movie? No I did not. Don’t you go doing that, either.
Nor is it “post-horror,” which theGuardian suggested last week that it was, indubitably coining a cheeky phrase and taking a good lashing for it on Twitter. As debate and mocking raged, A Ghost Story distributor A24’s saucy Twitter account tried to settle it:
PSA: #AGhostStory is not a horror movie. It’s not a ‘post-horror’ movie. It’s a cosmic love story about TIME and the enormity our existence.
A24 (@A24) July 6, 2017
Which, sure, I buy. But… it’s just not that easy. It can’t be. There’s more to it than that.
For that audacity alone, writer/director David Lowery’s lyrical weirdness deserves all 87 fresh points on Rotten Tomatoes and then some; if it comes to your town this weekend, catch it with your artiest friends, only to find yourself thinking and talking about it months later. (Maybe leave dad at home for this one. He’s going to lose his patience right around the scene with the pie.)
And yeah, if we tried hard enough, we could build some logical bridges into A Ghost Story‘s world; perhaps it’s just one of many realms we whisk off to, evidenced by a severe shortage of other ghosts. Maybe this state only befalls those who can’t let go of love; or who had died suddenly, or cannot give way to the light. Like in most ghost stories.
It just doesn’t matter. Lowery’s film sidesteps world-building justifications in favor of a narrative and aesthetic that both defy logic and make perfect sense. Like wearing a sheet over your head with eye-holes cut out for an entire movie.
But if you believe Lowery’s vision may be what awaits us, woe betide us all. In that case, go ahead and call it a horror movie.