Do ghosts haunt the living, or is it the other way around? Donna McRae attempts to answer this question, and others, in her award-winning feature, Johnny Ghost.
McRae’s tale opens with an experimental music rehearsal at a prestigious university. The director and composer is Millicent, an intense but seemingly conservative professor at the school. There’s something mysterious and distant about Millicent, even though she seems to be impassioned about her work and her students. It isn’t until the professor returns home, and her mood becomes even more tense, that we realize that someone at the other end of her telephone line is threatening her. It is also at Millicent’s home that we learn that the schoolmarmish prof harbors a very dark secret, and an extremely elaborate tattoo, running from her shoulder to her chest.
Labeled a horror film on Donna McRae’s IMDB page, Johnny Ghost is more a psychological thriller of the most terrifying variety than anything else. Rightfully, the movie is photographed in black and white, Film Noir style, so that every detail of Millicent’s thoughts are enhanced and disoriented.
Little by little the story unfolds and we learn more and more about Millicent, her past escapades, and the particular event that activates her ghosts into a frenzy. But when the professor tries to cut ties with her past, beginning with her plan to laser away her tattoo, Johnny will have none of it.
Johnny Ghost is not just a good thriller, it’s a great one. 76-minutes in duration, and with sparse dialogue, we breathe every cinematic breath with Millicent, live her turmoil and fears, and are virtually catapulted into her past, present and future. For a narrative to become so real, and spirits to become so tangible, magic seems a definite possibility. And that one word, “possibility,” is what separates Donna McRae from other writers of her genre. With visuals that blur, and very few words, she opens the door to our collective imagination, and allows it to soar.
Johnny Ghost is very strongly recommended.
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