Connect with us

Film Festivals

‘Spookt’ review: Dir. Tony Reames [FrightFest 2023]

Almost every small town in the world has some sort of local legend or ghost story. No matter where you grew up, you likely heard about some spooky goings on nearby. Some will have been rooted in an aspect of fact, whereas others would have merely been another stop on a popular urban legend’s journey. That they exist everywhere is fascinating. Without such tales to form inspiration, the world would be missing many horror films. The Blair Witch Project for example, worked so well because of a local Burkittsville story. These legends, and society’s unwavering fascination with them, forms the foundation of Tony Reames Spookt

Inspired by the small town in which Reames and several other members of the cast and crew grew up in, Spookt sees two paranormal investigations come face-to-face with the true face of evil. Rather than being a duo of investigators, the two women, Claire (Hayley Leary) and Rachel (Christen Sharcie), are at opposing ends of the supernatural spectrum. Rachel, who is introduced to the viewer first, is a professional paranormal debunker. She hosts her own YouTube channel and makes her career by going to haunted towns and disproving local folk tales. She also likes to diminish the ‘power’ and worth of investigating techniques. In contrast, Claire is a relatively new investigator who believes that these occurrences are real. The pair are thrown together when they both choose to explore the myths surrounding Claire’s hometown of Greenville, Pennsylvania. 

Greenville is a generic reflection of small town America. Everyone knows one another and secrets are hard to keep. The residents of Greenville are all invested in legends that have built its reputation. Rather than having just one ghoulish tale tied to it, Greenville has at least two well known stories. The first is of a pale woman who roams the roads at night, the other is the Greenvill Butcher. Formerly a top-class surgeon, Doctor Byler was rumoured to have been experimenting on his patients. He was eventually found dead after performing an undisclosed surgery, and since then the house is said to be haunted. What draws both Rachel and Claire to this particular case is that several years earlier a little girl, Flora Blu Giddens, entered the building on a dare and was never seen again. 

Despite being a story about paranormal investigators and influencers, Spookt bucks the current trend of telling itself via found footage, live-stream, or screen-life format. Reames mixes elements of these into his story, but for the most part Spookt sticks to conventional techniques to tell its story. This does not mean that Spookt is lacking anything, in fact, its decision to be different to so many other influencer-led stories helps it stand out. The cinematography itself is kept very naturalistic. There are no Giallo filters or gloomy blacks here. Instead, the visuals feed into the documentary style whilst also allowing the paranormal elements to feel entirely unnatural. When a horror movie ‘looks’ like one, the scare sequences are expected and as such their impact can be lessened, here though they come as more of a shock. The persistent nature of a rather creepy looking faceless doll offers sneaky but effective scares by the bucket-load.  

Leary and Sharice have great chemistry. The pair begin as bitter rivals and become reluctant collaborators, believing two heads will get to the bottom of Flora’s disappearance quicker. Their opposing views on the supernatural provides a well worked element of tension between them. The audience is never sure if and how they will form a connection. Early scenes during which they share their own experiences takes on a slumber party ghost story vibe. These appear to open up an intimate line of communication, but the two still manage to upset one another. Watching their journey is a big part of what makes Spookt work. 

With so much focus on the women and the stories they have, the forward motion of Spookt is on the slow side. Though not an intentional slow-burn, Spookt takes a long time to arrive at its destination. This sedentary pace will not please all tastes and it becomes hard to argue a case for its inclusion. However, outside of this there is plenty for the viewer to take and enjoy from Spookt. Urban myths and legends are an evergreen component of horror stories and Spookt’s exploration of them reminds the viewer of their importance.


Kat Hughes



Naturalistic in style, Spookt explores the origins and effect that urban myths have on small towns and those that live in them, creating an effective ghost story in its own right. 


Spookt was reviewed at Pigeon Shrine FrightFest 2023. 

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


Latest Posts


More in Film Festivals