Their ancestors spoke of the evil being that lived in the mountains. Too late they heeded their warning...
Year of Release: 1981
Also Known As: Ghost Keeper, Windigo
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 89 minutes (1:29)
Director: Jim Makichuk
Riva Spier ... Jenny
Murray Ord ... Marty
Sheri McFadden ... Chrissy
Georgie Collins ... Ghostkeeper
Bill Grove ... Danny
John MacMillan ... Windigo
Out of the deep chill of a hundred lost generations. Out of a haunting and murderous past. Out of the dark passageways of memory comes a suspense that will hurtle three people toward their fearful destinies. Out of the dead of night comes... GHOSTKEEPER.
On a wintery New Years Eve, Jenny, Marty and Chrissy embark on a short snowmobile excursion. But when Chrissie's engine gives out, the three are caught in a blinding blizzard.
Looming up in front of them is what looks like a deserted hotel. And as they explore, they find that the old lodge is heated and fully stocked with food. But... THEY ARE NOT ALONE. Without warning, frightening incidents based on native myth and legend descend on the trio - evil forces brought into play by a strange woman known as the Ghostkeeper. But, what is her dark secret? And what cruel stroke of fate has brought Jenny to this hotel, and to her destiny... as the new GHOSTKEEPER?
Ghostkeeper, remindin' us that it can be a pretty long, frustratin' night sleepin' next to your girlfriend when she knows the only reason you're even there is cause the blonde whore from Snatchscratchewan down the hall ain't available for a work order. We're talkin' hard day's night by that point, an you can be pretty well assured that there's no beaver in your wood's future. An speakin' of nuisance wood, I've spent the last two days tryin' to get a new roof on Cleave Furguson's taxidermy shop after the city's Christmas tree fell over on it Wednesday night. Generally, we close off the road separatin' Cleave's place an Hammer Time Hardware an stick the tree there so the old folks over at Mom & Poop's Senility Acres Hospice Care can sit an stare at it for five or six hours a day. Cept this year the city council bought this Baby Jesus tree topper that's programmed to say all kinda things like; "keep the me in Christmas" an "somebody please go check out Kirk Cameron's 'Saving Christmas' before the management at the Prime Creek theatre hasta lay off the usher." Well, it was real cute til our local florist, Richard Fawner, was settin' out the Poinsettia plants with Mark Skidman near the base of the tree an the little guy up above was heard to say "love your fellow man", which Richard took a little too literally an ended up nibblin' on Mark's earlobe. Needless to say, Mark was pretty P.O.'d an started chasin' Richard around the trunk tryin' to administer the death penalty for attemped cockin' around the Christmas tree. This went on for a few minutes til they got tangled up in the reins of a stuffed reindeer the city had on loan from Cleave an they ended up pullin' the tree down right on toppa Cleave's tannin' room. Baby Jesus didn't fare much better than Richard, Mark, or Cleave's roof either, an although his whereabouts're still uncertain, he was last seen sailin' over the home of the town's only Atheist who's since converted to Christianity an petitioned the church to bestow the entire incident with the status of "miracle." Though the only miracle I can see in all this is how I was able to keep Cleave from stranglin' Richard an Mark long enough to get my attorney, Cletus Rubenstein, on the phone an guarantee he'd be able to get the city to compensate Cleave for leavin' his building lookin' like a trailer park in Poonwaddle, Oklahoma durin' tornado season. Cletus thinks Cleave'll get enough money to finally get a business sign out front an possibly even be able to afford to register with the state. He's thinkin' about namin' it Furry Mountain Stuffing, LLC. I suggested his slogan be "where we tan your hide with pride." He's still thinkin' about it but I believe this's gonna open up a whole new consumer base an send his profits through the ceilin'. I mean, once he's got one again.
More to the point though, Ghostkeeper's a fairly decent flick that pretty much nobody's ever heard of outside of Lake Louise in Alberta, an even they don't like to talk about it cause the writer/director snuck a coupla bad words in it that might reflect poorly upon the good an decent citizens of Canada. Which is a shame, cause it's not bad once it gets goin', an I'd like to share a few of the things I've learned about our non-confrontational neighbors from the north. First, Canadians're obviously a bizarre, relatively short-bearded sect of snowbound Amish folks, cause no matter how bad you rube-bash 'em an demean their rustic way of life, they still turn more cheeks than Wynonna Judd ridin' the twerk-a-tron. Second, Canada's actually so cold that you can still see your breath in the house when the furnace is runnin', so if you're lookin' for first world accommodations inside your dwelling, you'd best forget it an go slit open a moose for the night. An third, turns out that leavin' your snowmobile uncovered in subzero temperatures all night can cause engine trouble. Who knew? Now, those're all fairly helpful sentiments, an I like to think of myself as a fine ambassador of the U.S. when it comes to respectin' other cultures, which's why one specific scene in this flick got me especially P.O.'d, particularly considerin' it's supposed to be the season of givin'. See, the blonde harlot is told specifically that there's "some" hot water, but "not much." So what's the first thing she does? Of course. Straight into the tub, without even havin' the courtesy to show off 'er yams. I don't have any trouble understandin' why a woman who wanted to grow up to spread 'er good cheer for $40 a pop in the backseat of cars so filthy that even Mike Rowe won't go back there might require a more rigorous personal hygiene regimen than most, but that's still no excuse to befoul the entire supply. The Bintch who stole Christmas, right here, look no further. An what happens if the old hag who lives in the house wakes up hackin' up 'er antique lung at 3am an needs some god damned Theraflu to get it under control? It's gonna take an extra 10 minutes just to get the water boilin', an considerin' she's already old enough to be the Cryptkeeper's Gramma, those 10 minutes might be 'er last. An that's just one scenario. Suppose somebody needs to plop their feet in the Mr. Bubbles foot massager to stave off frostbite after their feet start lookin' like an overcooked brownie out of a Banquet TV dinner, then what? Tough shit, that's what. Well that's just dandy. I'm sure they'll understand, what with it bein' of the utmost importance that blondie vanquish 'er not so fresh feelin' right that minute, while they're sittin' at Moose Knuckle General Hospital gettin' their feet hacksawed off. God damned people can't even demonstrate a shred of decency durin' the week in which we celebrate the birth of our beloved savior, an his equally jolly birthday twin, Santa Claus. I really hate our species sometimes.
The movie begins with this textual definition of a Wendigo as told by a wise old Indian who sells encyclopedias near the check out counter at Albertsons, which explains that the Wendigo is some kinda P.O.'d ghost who likes to chew on Canadians who stray too far from their igloos. Eventually, we see these two suburbanites (Marty an Jenny) on a snowmobile pull into a general store an Marty starts tellin' the shopkeeper about how disappointed he is at the lack of quaint rural stereotypes in his place of business an that at this rate he's not gonna have any funny bumpkinized anecdotes to tell his yuppie friends over brunch back in Calgary. Then another sled pulls up an this blonde (Chrissy) comes in an whines about how dull everything is back at the lodge an makes Marty promise never to leave 'er alone with 'er drudge of a date again without havin' the decency to pass 'er a cyanide capsule. Chrissy's one of those girls that everybody generally only dates the one time cause you can tell just by lookin' at 'er that she's too damned expensive. Then Chrissy asks the shopkeeper what they do for fun around here an the guy looks up at 'er like she's speakin' Swahili an tells 'em all not to go into the hills cause they're dangerous and may contain eyes. Course, the odds that a kindly old man who's lived there all his life knows more'n they do about the wilderness is next to zero, so they drive around awhile til they find this old ski lodge an about that time Chrissy starts hot-doggin' an wrecks 'er sled like Santa Clause after somebody left out a pan of rum fudge for 'im. So with Chrissy's additional 79lbs now a factor, Marty decides it'd be impossible to ride out on just the one sled an they all slog up to the front door of the lodge like toddlers in a ball room an start jackin' the door around til Jenny points at the "push" sign on it. They're pretty sure that somebody's here cause it's a balmy 42 degrees inside, but the check-in ledger at the front desk says that the last time anybody was here was five years ago when some guy named "Dicken Ahoar" stayed overnight an put a jug of cheap wine an a bottle of baby oil on his Visa card. With this in mind, they start lookin' around for anybody who might be runnin' a black market poutine ring outta the place but end up findin' nothin' an havin' to stay the night when the snow starts comin' down like cheap lawn furniture after a tornado rips through West Texas. This leaves them with no other option but to sit around the fireplace an sing bandito folks songs since that's the only thing they could find that the director wouldn't have to pay royalties for, cept Jenny's not really into it cause she's got that weird feelin' she used to get when 'er stepbrother would peek at 'er gettin' dressed before school in the mornin'.
Then they decide to play Truth or Truth like hormone crazed middle schoolers an Chrissy tells 'em about how when she was in high school she'd always dreamed of becomin' a hooker, an decided to sell 'er snatchquatch to the substitute teacher who Winnipegged 'er in the backseat of his 1968 Oldsmobile Delmont. Not surprisingly this prompts Marty to go look for some more booze, cept all they got is Canada Dry an before he can get back with it he gets speared (Bill Goldberg, not Richard Harris) by this old hag who looks like the thing from The Grudge an the girls hafta come runnin' to his rescue. Then the old hag tells 'em there's no vacancy an that if they don't get the heck outta there like yesterday she's gonna get the Mounties to come politely ask 'em to vacate the premises, til Jenny explains that tryin' to ride outta there at night when it's 80 below zero might not be the best idea an they just kinda stare at each other like paranoid schizophrenics playin' Texas Hold 'Em. But eventually the old hag softens 'er granite panties a little an tells 'em about how kids these days got no idea about the cold an regales 'em with tales of 'er younger days walkin' to school durin' the last ice age. Course then Marty starts givin' 'er the third degree til she hasta tell 'im to shut his middle class mouth an try wrappin' his head around the idea that out here there aren't a buncha underlings bein' paid to give a damn about what he wants. Then Jenny asks the old hag if she's livin' the care free bachelorette lifestyle out here an she tells Jenny that 'er son's around some place, cept she has a heckuva time keepin' tabs on 'im cause he spends a lotta time dressin' up like her an knifein' blondes in the shower. But bein' that it's damn near 6:30pm, the old hag shows everybody to their rooms an tells 'em the can's frozen solid an that if nature calls they're gonna hafta hang their plumbin' out the window, an the moment Marty an Jenny're alone, Jenny asks 'im if he's plannin' to go into Chrissy's room an invade Vancooter. Marty hasn't decided yet, but he's still a little P.O.'d about gettin' the business when it comes to his infidelity, an reminds 'er who's keepin' 'er in Mary Kay cosmetic products an genuine baby seal skin underpants. Then she gets P.O.'d an tells 'im that if he's plannin' to scale Mount Annapoona at least have the maracas to tell it like it is an he ends up tellin' 'er to quit actin' like 'er apeshit mama cause she sounds nuttier'n a bag of trail mix.
Unfortunately, Chrissy hasta go wash up in the tub due to a cheap thrill she got from the vibration on the snowmobile earlier, an before Marty can reserve a room over at the New Bunstick resort an coochino, this grumpy lookin' logger steps into the bathroom an holds Chrissy underwater til she ingests more liquid than that time she took on the entire locker room of the Montreal Canadiens after the '76 Stanley Cup finals. Meanwhile, Jenny's still havin' a hissy fit an heads out into the hallway where she runs into the old hag who tells 'er she likes the cut of 'er perm an can appreciate the aura of toughness she's radiatin' cause "you've gotta be tough for this job, an I'm gettin' too old." The old hag's distraction keeps everybody busy while Maul Bunyan cuts Chrissy's throat an dumps 'er in a fishin' shanty with this thing that looks like Oliver Platt after gettin' possessed by Pazuzu. Then Jenny an Marty go back to bed an have the most awkward pillow talk since Bill Cosby's wife finally turned on CNN an got an eye fulla what 'er man's been doin' for the last coupla decades, an Jenny says she's sorry an promises to have less self respect in the future so this kinda thing won't upset 'er apple cart no more. A while later, we watch this silhouette hackin' up somethin' with a splittin' maul til Jenny wakes up an listens in on a conversation between the old hag an the hairy guy who's been givin' out free samples of Axe body splay, wherein she tells 'im he's done real good an that she saved 'im a bowl of moose giblet stew. The next mornin', Marty gets up an tries startin' the remainin' snowmobile an finds out real quick that the busted ass sled don't give a damn 'bout his fancy law degree, though his sublime powers of deduction do reveal that it's kinda hard to get it to crank when the fuel line's no longer attached. Marty's P.O.'d, an once he crawls back to the lodge through the snow he demands to know where Chrissy is, who's been screwin' with his snowmobile, an why in the name of Mark Messier's megalomaniacal magnificence his continental breakfast isn't ready. The old hag just turns 'er decrepit derriere around, looks 'im square in the belly button, an tells 'im he'd better get the heck outta her kitchen an quit cross contaminatin' 'er grizzly flanks with weenie before she breaks out the photo album an forces 'im to listen to stories about 'er grandkids. So Marty tells Jenny he's goin' to fart around in the shed as though he has the slightest idea of how to repair a busted fuel line, an for her to stay here an make sure the hag don't try turnin' 'im into a toad or nothin'. Then Jenny explodes on the crone an threatens to tell the Mounties she's squattin' in this bed an breakfast without botherin' to put welcome mints on the guests' pillows, so Granny McFleas gives 'er a cup of tea takes off to go read 'er new copy of Maple Syrup Monthly over 'er bedpan.
Shortly thereafter, Jenny starts seein' the world like Jerry Garcia an pretty quick the roofies in 'er tea get the better of 'er an she passes out like an anemic elephant seal in Death Valley for awhile an when she wakes up she's propped up in the old hag's study with a book in front of 'er detailin' the existence of flesh eatin' giants who can be captured an subjugated, but only by babes with massive feminine wiles hangin' offa their torsos. Then she wanders down to the shanty where the old hag keeps Oliver chained up, only before she can release the Hacken, junior shows up with his McCulloch roarin' like Adrien Peterson when his offspring bring home a report card with a C- on it an starts chasin' 'er all over the lodge like some kinda screwed up Tom and Jerry cartoon. She holes up on the balcony til Domineck Beardsley comes through the entryway an whacks 'im right in the coconut with the doorknob, an he ends up swan divin' offa the roof an gettin' skewered on the iron gates below like a chunk of burro meat on a Mexican shish-kabob rod. So she climbs down an tells Marty about hangin' the gristletoe on the fence out back, an Marty keeps gettin' hung up on the fact that he freezes up like a Volkswagen Bug in the blizzard of '77 anytime he gets in front of a jury an the fact that Jenny's mama graduated with honors from the laughin' academy. All the while Granny Sith's blowin' the crap outta the snowmobile with 'er pump action. Then Marty smears 10W-30 all over his face like a Mohawk Indian on the war path an starts talkin' 'bout how ashamed his Dad would be if he could see 'im now (like it'd be a first or somethin'), an mutterin' about how Chrissy prolly just went back home an prolly has a steamin' bowl of sex waitin' for 'im before proceedin' to wander off through the woods. Meanwhile, the old codger from the general store shows up at the lodge lookin' for directions to the nearest Tim Hortons, til the old broad comes around the corner an uses 'er butcher knife on his fuel pump and gets him checked out. Elsewhere, Jenny's snuck back in like pork into a congressional budget bill an grabbed the scattergun leanin' up against the wall in the cleanin' closet (nuisance penguins show up in the bathtubs from time to time), only she immediately runs into Mrs. Bates. The old nag tells 'er she knows Jenny won't shoot cause that'd be a crazy thing to do an she seems pretty on the level, an when Jenny asks just what makes 'er so sure the nag explains that she knows a lot about 'er an that if she'd take a good hard look she'd know exactly who it is she's dealin' with. Cuttin't here, which is just as well, cause the ending is so bizarre an ambiguous I'd never be able to explain it anyway.
Alrighty, well, this one's pretty decent for what little recognition it gets and its relative obscurity. Generally, if nobody's heard of a title there's a reason, but there're so many titles out there from the golden age of horror that some are bound to slip through the cracks even if they're not completely devoid of redeeming value. I think what hurts this one the most is that it's just downright slow most of the time, and tends to utilize the 1940s potboiler style of horror rather than what we've come to expect from horror flicks of the 1980s. Normally that'd sink it for me, but it's got just enough creepy atmosphere and fantastic cinematography to hold your attention and keep you interested. The reason it kinda bogs down in the middle, as explained by the director, was that they'd run out of money about halfway through the shoot. So at that point he had to start making up cost effective continuity as he went along, trying to get everything finished as best he could with what was left. Which certainly explains why the Wendigo plot doesn't really go anywhere and why it's so seldom on screen. Sort of. The creature was just a guy with a few pounds of nasty makeup on his face and a Rob Zombie wig, which shouldn't have been all that expensive to maintain. Though I'd imagine the expenses will have arisen if you were to have said monster mutilate some people, provided it was your intention to show the mutilation. Who knows though what they originally had in mind before they decided to turn it into a cerebral potboiler. It's also kinda difficult to imagine where all the money went on this one (provided the IMDB estimate is even close, which I kinda suspect it isn't), because other than the difficulties involved with shooting in a moderately remote location the way they did, I'm having trouble determining where the budget actually went. I mean, they already saved tons of money by shooting in Canada (even if you're not Canadian, which this crew was, it's a good idea) and there is absolutely zero up on the screen in the way of special effects or big name stars that explain how the budget could be so quickly drained. One could assume the lodge where the shooting took place was a functioning business and that they probably had to pay a fair chunk of cash to shoot there, but the budget woes still seem odd. Another objection I have concerns the ending, and without spoiling it, all I can really say for it is that it's just way, way too ambiguous. I don't mind a movie that ends with uncertainty, so long as the uncertainty is clearly one of two very clear possibilities, but this one can be interpreted half a dozen ways and it ends so abruptly that there's basically zero time to ponder it. One major point seems pretty clear, but there're a few other bits of connected plot attached that have so little clarity that it's bothersome to be so unclear about so many pieces of the puzzle. Considering the budget crisis, it's entirely possible that it's simply not intended to make complete sense and that they just wanted to get it finished.
Okay then, lets hold this thing underwater like we're in the CIA til it tells us what we wanna know. Actually, forget that. Would prolly be better if we could get the truth instead. The plot is so ambiguous that it's really difficult to nail down and explain. I suppose you could call it a poor man's version of The Shining, but that's pretty half-assed and doesn't entirely cover everything that needs addressed. Admittedly, the timing is right if you were to consider whether or not it drew inspiration from The Shining, with that having been released in May of 1980 and Ghostkeeper filming in December of 1980. Still, there's enough difference between the two that anyone who really pushes that connection is stretching the similarities too far, possibly due to the fact that Ghostkeeper is weird enough that there may not be a better example of similar cinema than The Shining to compare it to. The acting is actually pretty decent, particularly considering what was available for a budget. Riva Spier kinda reminds one of the young Felissa Rose in terms of demeanor, and has the same creepy aura radiating from her to the point that you just know something's whacked in the whickety woo. The other cast members are fairly forgettable, except for Georgie Collins who completely steals the show as the old hag who's keepin' the Pazuzu possessed Oliver Platt captive in the basement. She's damn creepy and delivers her lines with an air of hidden malevolence that falls somewhere between Kay Hawtry in Funeral Home and Kathy Bates in Misery, and she's also a huge part of what gets the movie a passing grade. Otherwise, here's who matters and why: Riva Spier (Syngenor, Rabid), Les Kimber (Superman III, Locusts). So Georgie Collins, probably more than anything else about this flick, keeps it out of the toilet. The special effects are few and far between, since the movie either choose or, had no choice but to go with a more psychological approach to its horror. The best effect is probably the Wendigo, despite only being shown for a grand total of 8 seconds in three different shots. Kind of a waste really, but then again I didn't see the dailies (if there were any). The slashed throat on Sheri McFadden was actually very well done too, and kudos to the editor for not cutting away before you get to see anything, cause it's a pretty gruesome shot. Other than those two things though, just a few stab wounds on the old coot who owns the general store when he showed up lookin' for a vacancy at the lodge near the end for no real reason. The guy impaled on the fence could've used a spike protruding from his back to enhance the effect, particularly since that death had the potential to be the most impressive one on the flick. So what's on screen isn't bad, but a little more volume would've been beneficial.
The shooting locations may very well be the high point, and that's not the kind of disappointed declaration I tend to make when there's just absolutely nothing else of value in a movie. The lodge in Ghostkeeper, and the snowy expanses of the surrounding Canadian wilderness are genuinely great on their own merit. As I mentioned earlier, atmosphere is a big part of why this movie doesn't bomb as a result of its slow pacing, and the shooting locations are easily the biggest contributor to that atmosphere, due in large part to an effective feeling of claustrophobia that many movies strive for but fail to attain. Really, really good. The soundtrack does contribute somewhat to the overall atmosphere of the movie, but there's very little variety and you're stuck listening to the same track for an appalling amount of the movie's runtime. I won't claim that I was 100% observant at all times, but I only recall two different tracks playing during the movie, and that second one was for maybe a minute near the climax. It also doesn't help much that the overused track tends to remind one of the scene in A Christmas Story where Flick's bein' triple dog dared to stick his tongue to the flagpole, and the reason it sounds like that is because it's the same composer (though Ghostkeeper was released first). The composer, Paul Zaza, did continue to work and went on to compose soundtracks for some better known flicks such as; My Bloody Valentine 1981, Prom Night II - IV (he'd already done the original Prom Night by this point), American Nightmare, Curtains, The Brain, and the immortal Porky's. Though in all fairness, it's not his fault that the director opted to overuse the crap out of his composition, but it does start to stick in your craw after a while. Overall, this one isn't bad. It's got just enough good stuff to keep it interesting, despite having some admittedly problematic shortcomings. Check it out if you're into potboiler horror, or if you're someone who, like me, will watch just about any horror flick made in the 80s.