High in the snow capped mountains of the Canadian wilderness lives an old Indian legend frozen in time; the legend of the viscous man eating Wendigo. These cannibalistic flesh eating fiends of terrible strength and disposition were said to have a keeper, usually female, that sated the giant monster with blood sacrifice and protected the tribe from its ravenous hunger for human flesh. Wendigos were said to exist in places of great isolation, up in the highest mountain peaks, where they’d be safe from the prying curiosity of wayward travelers. That sanctity is about to be broken….
Ghostkeeper is a rare frozen treat; a Canadian snowbound slasher that borrows equal parts from The Shining and Psycho and maybe even a dash of Humongous on a basement budget. The movie lumbers forward like a yak in waist high snow, building atmosphere and dread like a slowly rolling snowball gaining mass; but sometimes the snow melts and the suspense withers. Hardly a crowd pleasing creature feature or bodycount flick, the movie spends a gob of time examining the three main characters relationships, where they mull over ideas of cheating on each other and sleepily analyze their own fears and aspirations while being snowed in on New Years at an abandoned hotel deep in the wintery tundra of the Canadian Rockies. Trade New Years for Easter Day and Canadians for Swedes and you have a less exciting or polished version of Cold Prey, but we won’t hold that against it.
The story follows a trio of ill fated amateur snowmobilers who refuse to listen to the advice of a grumpy inn keeper at a mountain lodge. The group does some of their own trail blazing and they end up at the decadent Deer Lodge; a secluded mountain resort long out of business but oddly enough warm and well kept. They poke around the dark for a bit proving that three is a crowd when the two women in the group, Chrissie and Jenny, get catty with each other over boy toy Marty, who knows what fills bikinis and entertains ideas about a life of doing whatever hole he wants. Jenny is Marty’s beau, but they find themselves coming at odds with each other when Marty expresses his own swinger desires to her. She is the virginal, sensitive, innocuous woman of the group and is an absolute bore. Chrissie is more of the flirtatious sassy chick that never wears a bra, which instantly garners Marty’s attention. Jenny pleas with the others to heed the inn keepers warning about going off exploring during a snow storm, but what fun would that be?
They find themselves snowed in and trading stories in the dark with an old eccentric woman who has been acting as caretaker to the lodge even after it went out of business. It soon becomes apparent that she is hiding something and they aren’t alone when Chrissies is plucked from her bath by an unknown assailant (the old hag’s son) and brought to feed the “wendigo” (who is really just a big burly guy covered in three shades of slime mold and mung, like he just deep dived through a septic tank) that lives in the basement of the hotel in a prison made out of ice bricks. Her throat is slit, the beast is fed, and the slasher game is set in motion. Soon Marty and Jenny find themselves stalked through the dark corridors of the lodge by the old lady and her son. Marty covers his face in motor grease and loses his cool, eventually wandering off into the woods and dying of exposure while Jenny wards off the old hag with a shotgun blast to the gut and impales her son on a fence. At the end Jenny takes over as the new “ghostkeeper” and caretaker of Deer Lodge for reasons we can only speculate.
Ghostkeeper didn’t exactly curl my frost bitten tail, but it is competent enough to spend a cozy warm evening with, sipping on cocoa, thinking about what fills them bikinis. The movie struts forth at a slow melt pace, but the characters weren’t silly or dumb enough for me to completely write off after the first act, but by the end of the second act I really wanted the snow soaked in blood. Still there is something odd about it that I can see myself crawling back to; be it the snot covered “abominable snowman” that looks like the dude from Slaughterhouse, the eccentric hag who claims she has her fill of companionship with the moon and the mountains, or the deeply isolated and beautifully shot snow laden setting, this movie does have its own brand of charm that only a crypt dwelling cadaver consumer like yours truly can truly appreciate. Beware the indoor igloo!