Glasgow council estates and ghosts do not normally share the same screen. Yet first-time director Genevieve Jolliffe (who, at 20, entered "The Guinness Book of Records" as Britain’s youngest feature film producer) reveals her admirable ambition again by blending kitchen-sink realism with the supernatural.
Lizzie is a blunt 12-year-old Glaswegian who, after pill-popping and joyriding with her chum in a speeding car, momentarily dies. The result is not only shock, trauma and a tendency to internalise every thought and emotion, but also – as furniture begins to move and shake and Lizzie to shriek – invasion by a poltergeist. While Lizzie’s mother Kate (Stephanie Buttle) struggles to stop the family from splintering, experts begin to probe the phenomenon and a journalist (Jason Connery) to exploit it.
Connery, uneven throughout, oscillates from being incredibly low-key to self-consciously earnest. But he is certainly far stronger than Andreas Wisniewski, a familiar face from "The Living Daylights" and "Die Hard". Here, playing a parapsychologist, Wisniewski was perhaps traumatised – not by poltergeists - but by finding himself in the midst of a grim Glasgow tower-block, since he seems to be reading his lines off a sheet that the cameraman is holding up. Although Stephanie Buttle does a solid version of determination and panic, the real showstopper here is native Glaswegian Heather Ann Foster who, as Lizzie, is subtle and clever enough to combine – and electrify the screen with – anger, resentment, guilt, and stress.
Despite creating credible scares, a sense of poor folk being pounded by their circumstances, and an environment of fully-detailed grubbiness, the director relies on too much editing within scenes, so the film often moves too quickly from one face to another instead of moving fluently with unbroken shots. In this way we are unhooked from a film which should really have grabbed and gripped.
"Urban Ghost Story" is out in UK cinemas on Friday 13th July 2001.
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