GHOSTS OF THE OZARKS is a brand new Western Horror film directed by Matt Glass and Jordan Wayne Long. It stars Thomas Hobson (Nickelodeon’s That Girl Lay Lay) as Doc, an African-American man who’s just left the South during The Reconstruction Era. He heads west, to the small secluded town of Norfork, Arkansas, as he has been summoned to be the local doctor by his uncle Matthew McCune played by Phil Morris (Doom Patrol). The peaceful town welcomes the new doctor to their utopia, but Norfork is far from a utopia.

The film also stars David Arquette (Scream), Tara Perry (Nickelodeon’s The Fresh Beat Band), Angela Bettis (May), and Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou). A majority of the main cast and the directors worked on the 2020 film 12 Hour Shift, so working together on a horror film is nothing new, but GHOSTS OF THE OZARKS is more than just a horror film. Due to its setting, you can’t help but recognize the anxiety that Doc faces as a black man after the American Civil War with each new person he meets. It also feels as though I’m watching a mystery unfold before my eyes, making the tension in the film both exhilarating and frightening.

If I had to recommend this film, I’d actually make the parallel to HBO’s Lovecraft Country due to the themes and supernatural aspects. This film feels grounded in history while simultaneously otherworldly as red smoke and supernatural creatures come to life on screen. From the very first scene of the film, you understand who Doc is and how he carries his troubles and memories of the past. Thomas Hobson is captivating from the moment you see him. As he enters the walled-off town of Norfork, the audience is treated to character introduction after character introduction, with each person being slightly off, adding to the uneasy feeling of the movie. You truly don’t know who is good or bad and I found myself trying to guess who would turn on Doc.

[Movie Review] GHOSTS OF THE OZARKS
Courtesy XYZ Films
This is a beautiful film with great set pieces and costuming fitting the period. The acting is also pretty good. I won’t say that every southern or western accent is spot on, but there was never a time when I was taken out of the film because of it. Tim Blake Nelson delivers, what I would consider, one of the greatest performances of his career as the barkeep/butcher Torb. Outside of Thomas Hobson’s great performance, I think Nelson steals the film. Not only was I drawn in by his physicality, but also by his strong emotional performance. That isn’t to take away from anyone else. Arquette, Bettis, Perry, and Morris all deliver uneasy and fun performances.

One drawback to the film is its third act. Like many mysteries, the 3rd act has to deliver something spectacular, and while I did not expect the twists and turns that played out on screen, I was hoping for something a bit more. Up until the third act, I thought this was a fun and fresh take on the horror mystery. I wouldn’t say it’s bad enough to not see it, just a little disappointing since it is a bit of a stereotypical ending.

If you are a fan of Lovecraft Country or Twin Peaks, you’ll feel right at home with GHOSTS OF THE OZARKS. This is the kind of film I wish was a TV show because I’d love to sit with these characters for much longer. For me, that’s the sign of a job well done. I look forward to seeing more from this team who collaborate well together.

You can catch GHOSTS OF THE OZARKS in theaters for a limited run or streaming on-demand starting on February 3rd, 2022.

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