10 October 2004 | jonathan_ley
Impressive, low budget ghost story
I caught Urban Ghost Story on t.v. recently and I have to say I was very impressed. I was familiar with the film makers through their authorship of the Guerilla Film Makers Handbook but, to be honest, after reading about their first two features 'The Runner' and 'White Angel' (neither of which I have seen) I wasn't expecting great things from Urban Ghost Story.
It turned out however to be a very effective piece of film making which works just as well as social realism as it does as a genre film. The central performance, given by a young non-actor, possesses a raw, natural quality which helps to ground the film's supernatural aspects in a very well observed reality. Stephanie Buttle as the girl's mother is a real find as well, having to work hard against her natural beauty to make her portrayal of a dirt poor single mother convincing. Less impressive are the star turns. Billy Boyd is an ineffectual, stuttering gangster and Jason Connery (a questionable piece of stunt casting) does little with his role as a shady tabloid journalist. The film works hard though to create a believable locale, a Glasgow tower block, and succeeds totally. The film makers have clearly taken the Robert Wise 'Haunting' approach to depicting the ghostly activity and for the most part it works. These scenes could have done with being a little scarier perhaps but a bizarre seance scene does unnerve. Most impressive of all though is the fact that Urban Ghost Story was made for a reported £250,000. For that money they have created an atmospheric film which feels cinematic, complete with a jaw dropping explosion and stunt work. If only more British low budget film making was this adventurous. I am surprised to see that the director has not made a film in the six years since release whereas Merchant Ivory (whose films have gone largely unwatched since Remains of the Day) get money thrown at them. I only wish that more film makers like Ms Joliffe would emerge to shake up the British film industry.