Cold winds sweep the icy Canadian landscape in Denis Côté’s newest film. Ghost Town Anthology borrows its title from the name given to abandoned rural small towns: as people – in particular the younger generation – are drawn more and more to bigger cities, they leave behind ghost towns in the desolate countryside. The particular Québécois history adds to the claustrophobic sense of seclusion; to stay, for these villagers, is an act of defiance in itself.
One of these villages, Irénée-les-Neiges, population 215, becomes the film’s focus, as the sudden death of one of the village’s few young people impacts the community around him. Though his death is deemed a tragic accident, the events of the film’s opening scenes mark it a decisive suicide. At his funeral, the mayor (Diane Lavallée) addresses her small community in a rallying cry: Simon, she says, has died in battle, but the rest of them are still here to continue fighting.
Simon’s unexpected death marks the beginning of strange things happening. In a village where seemingly no baby has been born in the past 20 years, there are suddenly children playing, their faces eerily masked. They are a sign of more doom ahead for this close-knit community, and indeed death continues to be a prevalent presence. When deceased villagers suddenly appear en masse, the phenomenon is accepted by government officials with little questioning or investigation. Their apparition may terrify the community, but there is nothing to be done.
In Côté’s film, the lifeless landscape inhabits the role of a character on its own. Vast whiteness is filmed with an often shaky handheld camera on grainy, desaturated 16mm, adding to the sense of a setting lost in time and space. Ghost Town Anthology is a solid genre film of particular social relevance: while the events portrayed take on increasingly supernatural qualities, the true horror lies in the reality of living in rural Quebec.
CAST: Robert Naylor, Josée Deschênes, Jean-Michel Anctil, Larissa Corriveau
DIRECTOR: Denis Côté
WRITER: Denis Côté
SYNOPSIS: After a young man dies in a small rural community in Quebec, strange things begin to happen as those he left behind struggle with this trauma.