“Ghost Town Anthology” feels like an episode of “The Twilight Zone” that Rod Serling didn’t get to make. Set in the tiny fictional Quebecois town of Irenee-les-Neiges, it’s a story about a tragedy that mixes the physical and metaphysical.
Irenee-les-Neiges is a wind swept town of just 215 people. Austere and unwelcoming, the snow bound town has been hit hard by a souring economy. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows everyone’s business so when a popular 21-year-old hockey player Simon Dubé kills himself in a rather dramatic fashion, it is the talk of the town.
Most directly impacted are his older brother Jimmy (Robert Naylor) and parents Gisele (Josee Deschenes) and father Romuald (Jean-Michel Anctil). Jimmy skips through most of the five stages of grief, vacillating between two, anger and depression, while his devastated mother and father search (sometimes literally) for answers. Soon ghosts from the past, including Simon, appear in town as though they had never left. “If you think about it,” says Richard (Normand Carrière), “they’re like us, in a way.”
Written and directed by Denis Côte and based on a novel by Montrealer Laurence Olivier, “Ghost Town Anthology” (“Répertoire des villes disparues”) is not a horror film. There are unsettling moments but the tone is more mournful.
Côte does an admirable job of creating an atmosphere of unease, using handheld cameras and a grainy film stock that emphasizes the stark nature of life in Irenee-les-Neiges.
“Ghost Town Anthology,” in French with English subtitles, is a slow burn that builds to a disquieting climax. These ghosts are not malevolent; they are nostalgia, reminders of what once was. Simon and the others may or may not be real but this isn’t their story. This is a story of the people living in a forgotten place in a changing world thinking about what they have lost, of appraising their past and facing an uncertain future.