I Am a Ghost is set in an unnumbered, un-contextualized Victorian house. That setting was enough to instill horror in me – very few built environments are scarier than a Victorian house. Director and cinematographer H.P Mendoza makes very good use of a Victorian house’s natural ghoulishness: filmed as though in a faded portrait are the long, narrow hallways that lead to nowhere; circular black iron attic stairs straight out of a nightmare; deep-set rooms with dark furniture. The film is short (1 hour, 15 minutes), and most of that first hour is spent following our ghost, Emily, as she haunts these rooms. Her solitude, her obliviousness to the horror of her predicament and of her surroundings was pure horror to me – though you know she’s already dead, you still don’t want anything bad to happen to her.
Mr. Mendoza, who has previously won several prizes at SFIAFF, delivers a film which plays on commonplace human fears which are outside hauntings. We can be shocked that our memory is not an accurate record of reality, we are afraid of being trapped with one’s inner (and in this film, literal) demons, and we fear the unknown and nothingness. That even a ghost can feel fear is not a charming prospect for those of us who hope to be relieved of it in the afterlife.
I Am a Ghost. Dir. H.P. Mendoza. Ersatz Film, 2012.