Starring: Paula Niedert Elliot, Chris Elliot, Bridey Elliot, Haley Joel Osment , Isidora Goreshter
Written and Directed by: Bradley Elliot
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Reviewed by: Dan Oles

I emerged from Clara’s Ghost extremely confused.

There’s a series of mental gymnastics that occur in a filmgoer’s mind mid-production: a hierarchy of comprehension. Initially the mind wants to know who is the hero of the story and the villain, and if neither can be found at least who is the protagonist and why. Following close behind this is a general determination of genre just for the sake of consistency. The genre can be in broad and even mingled terms: horror, comedy, action, thriller, romance…etc. A protagonist is generally someone we can sympathize with or at the very least get into the headspace of. A villain is not necessarily defined morally but can instead just be any character or force working against the wishes of the protagonist or threatening the lives or livelihoods of characters we the audience care about.

Clara’s Ghost initially has a high barrier to entry because the titular Clara, however amicable, is clearly a little crazy. The initial impression is a well intentioned but extremely disturbed woman who can be felt sorry for but not easily understood.

Things only get more bizarre as the genre flip flops. Ordinarily you’d assume a dramatic tale was forthcoming when you’re introduced to a possibly senile or troubled aging trophy wife with drinking problems and a neglectful and thoroughly unpleasant Hollywood family. Then things take a turn for the fantastic. It’s not so much a twist if you bother to read the title of the film. You might suppose the ‘ghost’ is metaphorical…or maybe it is. Clara’s Ghost doesn’t like to play its hand fully in any regard, and eventually it seems like the audience is the one being toyed with as much as the beleaguered characters. Maybe this was the idea. Maybe not.

Here’s a sequence out of a psychedelic movie complete with classic tunes in which the characters writhe around in a drunken stupor. Moments later someone nearly dies in an accident, but nobody really remembers or cares seconds later. Clara is possessed and murderous by the ghost one second, then feels differently, then is back to plain ol’crazy. Characters who hate each other come round in a handful of scenes. Sometimes the tone is clearly comedic with set ups and payoffs, and other times the laboring gloom of depression and frustration is thick enough to cut with Clara’s ever-present kitchen knife.

It’s a roller coaster at best, a slapped together sequence of barely related scenes at worst.
At least it’s pretty to look at. Nice direction, lighting, some nifty little touches of style like swooping angles and toying with the focus. The music always seems to be a rattling tribal drum which does fit the atmosphere of intensity even if it’s a tad pretentious. The pacing holds interest throughout the runtime and it’s a clearly professional job done, the best highlight being the acting which is stellar across the board.
Clara’s Ghost is ultimately an enigma, open ended and defying description. It left me in a haze, but again maybe that was the intention. I can’t say for sure because Clara’s Ghost never did either.

See it for the quirky characters and the deliciously biting satire. The ghost story however is unfortunately, if fittingly, insubstantial.


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