The "haunted house" used for the film is director Derek Cole's actual home.
At first glance, An American Ghost Story appears to be one of those cheap knockoffs hoping to cash in via accidental rentals or purchases from confused consumers (An American Ghost Story? I wanted you to pick up American Horror Story!). Well, looks can be deceiving. Made for an estimated $10,000 with a very small cast and crew, An American Ghost Story takes a basic paranormal tale and improves upon it with great camera work and many suspenseful scenes.
Hopeful author Paul Anderson (Stephen Twardokus) moves into a rental home along with his girlfriend Stella (Liesel Kopp). The residence is reportedly haunted since a man killed his wife and children before taking his own life with a shotgun. Wanting to write a book about the hauntings, Paul begins his task of decorating the house as it appeared in old crime scene photographs to lure a response from the rumored spirits. Stella is less than enthused and wants to leave after only two days when strange things begin happening. Can Paul resist his sense of curiosity and stop before things go too far?
Being both shot and directed by Derek Cole, An American Ghost Story is a rather intimate film with a low number of characters. There are no huge special effects or wild outbursts of gore and violence. Instead, Cole utilizes good old fashioned suspense to build towards the conclusion. That aforementioned suspense is achieved through eerie camera shots in the house as Paul or Stella wander around in the dark investigating a disturbance. Music is used both to set the mood and to add emphasis on a few scenes meant to shock viewers. A few of the disturbances are similar to scenes from the Paranormal Activity franchise, but the music helps keep them fresh and very distinct here.
Twardokus does an adequate job as Paul and manages to be likeable in a mostly one-man film. The rest of the cast screams amateur, but it doesn’t detract from the story. In fact, it almost helps the credibility and makes An American Ghost Story feel like it’s actually happening to real people instead of the typical megastar actors and actresses. The promotional screener I was given to review doesn’t contain any special features, but the commercial DVD release will include deleted scenes and a commentary track by members of the cast and crew. Readers looking for a slasher film or oodles of blood and guts should look elsewhere. Anyone who doesn’t mind a bit of build in a film and has enjoyed recent fare like The Conjuring or Sinister would find something to enjoy in An American Ghost Story.