Ghosts Never Sleep (2003-2006) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

If you review the outline of the facts available at IMDb and the film's official site, you would conclude that Ghosts Never Sleep is absolutely atrocious:

1) The director could not originally agree with the author of the stage play (Kill Switch, but Christopher Joyce) about how to adapt the story to a screenplay.

2) The film was made in 2003. In the next three years, it managed to get screened only at some of the smaller film festivals. It doesn't seem to have won any awards or attracted any distribution deals from those screenings. It finally came to DVD in the late summer of 2006, some three years after it was lensed.

3) It is rated 2.7 at IMDb. A score below 3.0 qualifies a film for the infamous "Bottom 100" list at IMDb, so this film lacks only the minimum number of votes to qualify for a place in the Pantheon of Dishonor beside Spice World and The Beast of Yucca Flats.

Well, guess what? This is actually not such a bad film at all. It's a film that treats some very serious themes in a mature way, without any preaching, by letting the themes come through the plot development of a mystery/thriller. The dark-themed play wasn't quite good enough or marketable enough to attract any interest from the big name directors, the pitch wasn't quite strong enough to attract enough money to do the film right, and the final film was trapped in limbo between the worlds of art and commerce. Nonetheless, if the film's creators had been a little more experienced, or had a little more money, this might have been a successful project. As it is, it provides a lesson about the thin line between success and failure.

Tony Goldwyn plays a writer whose screenplay is being shopped. In the course of its coming to light, it exposes a family secret which the author has never told his wife (Sean Young) about, and which his mother (Faye Dunaway) wants to keep a secret.

The screenwriters chose to tell this story in a very complicated manner, ala Adam Egoyan. It starts out with the author running away from a police pursuit, although it does not reveal precisely why the police are chasing him. It then takes that story forward chronologically, but also eventually includes a flashback to explain why the author was fleeing. While it is telling that story, the script intercuts three additional stories featuring the same characters. One of the stories takes place when the author was a child, and involves the gradual revelation of the family secret. A second story takes place four years before the police pursuit, when the author was first shopping his script. The final story takes place four years in the future, as the author's wife tries to heal from the trauma of the events which happened around the time of the police chase.

The multiple time-shifts make it sound like the script uses an excessively convoluted way to develop the plot, but it doesn't. It is always clear when each set of events is happening, and the complex structure allows the film to maintain audience interest by involving viewers in three mysteries at once. First, the audience wonders what the childhood secret is. Second, the audience is curious about what the author did to warrant a police chase. Third, one can't help but wonder what will happen to the troubled author after his stand-off with the police. Furthermore, the script is clever enough to fool the audience completely about the nature of the critical childhood secret which drives the plot. The facts of the case make it seem ever clearer that the secret must be one particular thing - and then it turns out to be something quite different. One character who seems to be lying turns out to have been telling the truth all along, but the viewer never believes her because of her constant shuffling and equivocating. It turned out that she was being evasive to avoid revealing a completely different secret! Adam Egoyan himself might be impressed with the way that is handled, although he might suggest eliminating the portion of the film which takes place after the stand-off. There is no value derived from intercutting the "four years later" scenes with the other three stories, and the scenes with the wife and her psychiatrist are completely superfluous. Showing the ultimate fate of the author is necessary to satisfy mystery #3, of course, but could have been (and actually is) handled in a brief epilogue.

In addition to having some enthusiasm for the positives of the screenplay, I also feel that Tony Goldwyn did an excellent job as the emotionally unstable author, so I just can't understand the low IMDb score. I won't contend that the film is without negatives. Its inability to secure any distribution deal in three years tells you a lot about it. The production values are shoddy, several scenes need a few more lightbulbs, there are weak performances in a couple of the smaller roles, and it is just too dark to attract any box office. But those factors certainly don't qualify this serious, ambitious film to have an IMDb score like Leonard, Part 6. The IMDb score should actually be in the fives or sixes, a C- on our scale.



  • the widescreen transfer is letterboxed, NOT anamorphically enhanced
  • no features


The film has some pretty durned good nudity from Shea Alexander, who shows her breasts on three occasions.

The Critics Vote ...

  • No reviews online


The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 2.7/10. This score is ludicrous. See rationale above.

Miscellaneous ...


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C-. (See rationale above.)

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