Ghosts of the Ozarks

XYZ Films
Ghosts of the Ozarks [2021] is set in the American Reconstruction era, and follows James McCune, a black, veteran physician, as he assimilates into a utopian town of the remote Ozarks. James must learn the values and morals of his new town in this Western-Thriller by directors Matt Glass and Jordan Wayne Long. Thomas Hobson (James) is joined by the bill attraction of David Arquette and Tim Blake Nelson in this small studio feature.

Rough Start: Ghosts of the Ozarks produces little to be excited about in the first act. Thomas Hobson’s (James) feature film acting inexperience shows as clear as day. He delivers a rough approach resulting in stiff and uncomfortable acting. James is illustrated as being far too timid, uncool, devoid of swagger, and overall pale in charisma. There could be a connection between how James is portrayed and his experience in the Civil War as a field medic, but it is a hard sell for the audience. This experience haunts James in some way that does create stronger character development, eventually. Though the film stars Arquette and Nelson in supporting roles, they can't help the choppy cadence in dialogue. Glass and Long did direct this film in the heat of COVID-19 restrictions and protocols, so perhaps this impacted actor chemistry.

Story-Driven: By the second act it is clear that Ghosts of the Ozarks has little reliance on its character strength. Luckily, the story picks up even if it can feel cliche and inspired from other sources. Ghosts of the Ozarks can feel like The Village at times with that similar Shyamalan-esque style. Even if the style is unoriginal for Glass and Long, it provides the second act with some much-needed excitement. The first act hints at several supernatural pressures for the story. By the end of the second act, James navigates the subtle mystery of Norfolk with command and determination; this makes him slightly less boring.

Flickers Out: Ghosts of the Ozarks gains so much momentum, so quickly. The third act is significantly better than the beginning of the film, but when the inexperienced directing shows; it's hard not to notice. The film produces that hopeless horror that has made so many recent horror films so memorable (think Ari Aster's Midsommar) — but it's over without being fully expanded upon. Possibly the most disappointing part of this movie is the lost potential.

Ghosts of the Ozarks starts rough but then turns into a watchable thriller. Lacking character development, the film makes up for it with a compelling story to draw the audience in through to the end.

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