REVIEW: Ghosts of the Ozarks (2021)

dir. Matt Glass & Jordan Wayne Long

America’s history has often proved fertile ground for horror, with the wrenching, destabilising energy it took to claim the country proving rich soil for creatives. As such there is real potential with this feature debut from co-directors Matt Glass and Jordan Wayne Long, based on their 2016 short: set in post-Civil War Arkansas, it follows a doctor who comes to a remote town menaced by threats both supernatural and real.

Aspects of Ozarks work well: there’s an attempt at nuanced debate about reckoning with one’s past and the themes explored at least make this an interesting entry into costume-drama horror. There’s also a number of strong supporting turns, with great work from Tim Blake Nelson, Angela Bettis and David Arquette, whilst Thomas Hobson and Tara Perry leave strong impressions as the leads.

However the whole never quite satisfies, Glass and Long’s film failing to find an effective rhythm and ending up a tonal mess, sombre moments sitting uncomfortably alongside the ridiculous. Add to this a muted colour palette and a number of poorly lit night-time sequences and the result squanders a great set-up, burning through the good will afforded by its more interesting aspects. The film manages to regain some of this with an effective finale and striking visuals, but the journey to the end is sadly lacking.

Russell Bailey


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