Who doesn’t love a good, old-fashioned ghost story? The elements have to be right of course. There needs to be an atmosphere, a restless spirit, and generally a dark secret. All of these feature nicely in the new 18-minute short Keep The Gaslight Burning from Oscar®-winning Director Dave Elsey and co-director Lou Elsey.
The film opens as young Maya (Kate Armstrong Ross) arrives at her new job as the personal maid to the eccentric Mrs. Maxwell. As Ms. Duncan (Maureen Studder), the house cook, gruffly explains to Maya, there is only one rule to abide by at all times. The gaslight in Mrs. Maxwell’s chambers must never be allowed to go out. Of course, there is a rule like that. The only question is, “Why?”
“The gaslight in Mrs. Maxwell’s chambers must never be allowed to go out…”
As Maya settles into her routine, we meet Mrs. Maxwell (Markie Post). A sort of less dusty Ms. Havisham, Mrs. Maxwell is a sharp-minded old woman sitting comfortably atop her riches, and never, ever leaving her living quarters. Terrified of the invasive darkness we learn of Mrs. Maxwell’s dark past, her reasons for keeping the lights on, and of her paralyzing fear of the evil visitor that stands below her window, waiting for a chance to come into her home.
The script, written by co-director Dave Elsey, has all of the right elements in place yet it seems as it could have used a slight trim here or there. That’s a minor note when you have a riot of technical prowess on display on multiple fronts. Writer-Director Elsey here delivers meticulous makeup designs that are not just beautiful, but downright scary. That’s not to mention the lovely gore effects and unbridled bloodletting that made this horror fanatic squee in delight. For extra added pleasure we are treated to a cameo from legendary makeup designer Rick Baker too. Good stuff.
“…unbridled bloodletting that made this horror fanatic squee in delight.”
The short film also features clean production design by Peter Overstreet, a nice, textured sound design by Jay Shilliday, and a lush musical score by Joe Kraemer. For an 18 minute short film, it’s a pretty impressive stockpile of know-how.
What do I want? More. It would make my cold heart sing to have a good old-fashioned American Ghost story get the feature treatment. I would have loved to explore more of the mansion that houses the evil secrets of a filthy rich widow. I would have liked to have seen more of the storyline surrounding the late Mr. Maxwell and his widow. Alas, this is just a short film. Still, Keep The Gaslight Burning accomplished more in its short run time than the recent feature release of Winchester could with 90 minutes. Consider that shade thrown.
Keep the Gaslight Burning is currently on tour at film festivals worldwide.
Keep the Gaslight Burning (2018) Directed by Dave Elsey, Lou Elsey. Written by Lou Elsey. Starring Markie Post, Kate Armstrong Ross, Rick Baker
Keep the Gaslight Burning is worth Matinee (***).
Norm’s Rating System: Full Price (****), Matinee (***), VOD (**), Don’t Bother (*)