Another no-budget horror oddity from the mid seventies (see also SUICIDE CULT, SOUL VENGEANCE, THE VISITOR, etc). It’s distractingly low rent, poorly acted, needlessly convoluted and repetitive, but compellingly weird nonetheless.
This 1977 movie’s paranormal themes, ultra low budget and child protagonist are recurring elements in the films of writer/director James T. Flocker, who made several kid flicks (THE GRIZZLY & THE TREASURE, THE SECRET OF NAVAJO CAVE) and also the bizarre alien abduction TV movie THE ALIEN ENCOUNTER (1979), which makes for a good companion-piece to GHOSTS THAT STILL WALK. Both films appear to have been driven by a real belief in extraterrestrial contact and astral projection, which of course only renders them that much weirder.
The teenaged Mark suffers from migraines and seizures, yet medical tests show nothing wrong with him. Mark is sent to Dr. Sills, an M.D. turned psychiatrist who believes “the body and mind are one.” In Dr. Sills’ office Mark hears an eerie voice whispering to him and inexplicably smashes a glass case containing a Native American artifact.
Dr. Sills hypnotizes Mark’s grandmother Alice to figuring out what’s happening with the family. Alice recalls an incident when she and her husband Harold traveled through Arizona, where they entered a region in which the laws of gravity were apparently inverted and an invisible something took control of their trailer. Later on, parked in the desert, they were assaulted by errant boulders.
Alice’s daughter/Mark’s mother, it transpires, has suffered a nervous breakdown after conducting experiments on a Native American mummy in an effort at restoring it to life. Specifically, she sought to summon its “astral body,” which apparently still lives even though the physical body is deceased.
Dr. Sills hypnotizes Mark, and reveals that he actually became possessed by the spirit of the mummy. Dr. Sills takes Mark and his grandmother to an old cave in the desert, where Mark’s astral form apparently resides.
Writer/director James T. Flocker’s mistakes are legion, starting with the opening scenes, which are taken up with a lot of dull medical chatter about Mark’s condition (wouldn’t it have been better to show his seizures and blackouts?). Then again, part of the film’s charm is the way it constantly confounds logic and expectation; why, for instance, does Flocker lavish so much screen time on Mark’s grandmother’s flashbacks—the entire first half of the film, in fact—even though they have little-to-no bearing on the main storyline? Also, why does Flocker wait until 50 minutes in to reveal the film’s reason for being (the Native American mummy)?
The film does contain some authentically good things, such as cinematographer Holger Kasper’s eerie multi-hued photography, which succeeds where the stilted performances, cut-rate production values and limp editing fail. I also enjoyed the frequent music cues lifted from SPIDER BABY, which are so jarring and incongruous they fit right into a movie whose defining trait is discordant weirdness.
Those things don’t excuse the fact that the film is incredibly boring. The much remarked upon boulder attack sequence, for instance, could have been effective if only it didn’t drag on so long and contain so much repetitive action. So too the film overall.
GHOSTS THAT STILL WALK
Gold Key Entertainment
Director: James T. Flocker
Producers: Lynn S. Raynor
Screenplay: James T. Flocker
Cinematography: Holger Kasper
Editing: Val Kuklowsky
Cast: Ann Nelson, Matt Boston, Jerry Jensen, Caroline Howe, Rita Craqfts, Phil Catalli, Lee James, David Kane, Janice Ren