Urban Ghost Story is an ambitious yet not entirely successful film from the writing/directing/producing team of Chris Jones and Genevieve Jolliffe. It combines elements of The Exorcist, Poltergeist, Hideaway and Carrie to tell the story of Lizzie, a 12 year old Glaswegian girl. After surviving a car crash in which her best friend is killed, Lizzie becomes convinced that her family’s flat is haunted. Her mother contacts a tabloid newspaper and soon their flat is overrun with reporters, scientists, spiritualists and anyone else who thinks they can make a buck out of the situation. Stephanie Buttle portrays Lizzie as a belligerent, expressionless adolescent. Her performance is adequate, but not particularly affecting. The shaky production values betray the low budget and inexperience of the filmmakers. While the ugliness of the setting is obviously intended to enhance the ominous mood and highlight the grinding poverty in which Lizzie’s family lives, the unrelenting gloom and lack of creative visuals quickly becomes wearying.
What initially seems to be a rather humdrum ghost story eventually develops into something more interesting. The story explores grief and guilt from the perspective of a girl too young to really understand what she’s going through. The strange occurrences in Lizzie’s flat could be seen as either evidence of a poltergeist or as external manifestations of Lizzie’s internal turmoil. Unfortunately, the story is far too long and disorganized Ð any tension built up by the groaning pipes and throbbing front door is diffused during the murky and static second act. Certain elements, such as the romance between Lizzie’s mother and a tabloid reporter, aren’t entirely convincing. While the eventual climax is satisfyingly cathartic, it is also both predictable and formulaic.