Ghosts of the Ozarks (2022)

Director: Matt Glass, Jordan Wayne Long

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Starring: Thomas Hobson, Scott Dean, Ed Lowry, Angela Bettis, Tim Blake Nelson, David Arquette

My review of Ghosts of the Ozarks was first published on Bloody Good Screen.

In post-Civil War Arkansas, young doctor James (Thomas Hobson) travels to a remote town in the Ozarks called Norfork. Led by his uncle Matthew (Phil Morris), the town is described as a utopia where everybody has a purpose, although there’s a sinister undercurrent to this town which may involve ghosts haunting outside the town walls. 

The ghostly arrivals are heralded by a foreboding red mist, complete with imposing shadowed figures, selling how the town are fearful of the spirits lurking outside. In actuality, the spectre lurking over everything is Civil War trauma, as shown in an early scene where James meets an imposing white man that questions his free status. Past experiences have left physical and emotional scars on the characters, leaving a determination to defy the previous world and persevere as a Black man, regardless of what lengths must be taken. 

Considering the majority of screentime is set within the walled town, directors Matt Glass and Jordan Wayne Long wonderfully capture the time period and setting on a small budget. From the tailor’s fascination with photography, to the lively bar owners played by the solid pairing of Tim Blake Nelson and Angela Bettis, Norfork feels like a living location. When one character describes this paradise as “a town full of mysteries”, that branding promises intrigue the film cannot live up to it. Screenwriters Jordan Wayne Long and Tara Perry bring forth decent ideas, although the execution unfortunately feels lacking and contains dull stretches. As the end hints at a sequel, one hopes the follow-up irons out these issues for a stronger affair.