“You've only got one life to live, brother. If you can't see that, you're gonna be stuck.”
Ghost stories are as old as time itself. As long as there have been humans evolved enough to grieve for their dead, there have been ghost stories to haunt future generations. The idea of the dead staying with the living is not only old but universal as well. With so many historical and cultural precedents afoot, finding a way to incorporate a new wrinkle into the fabric is certainly a challenge. THE HAUNTING OF AMELIA, also known as THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS, tries to do just that with some varying results.
28 year old Josh (Brendan Fehr) is a haunted young man. The past ten years of his life have been in stasis. He has remained in the same small-town, lived in the same huge, run-down house and worked the same dead end pizza job. This is a fact that assorted people in his life, ranging from his mother, Helen (Shirley Knight), to his old high school friend Rusty (Chad Lindberg), like to remind him of. Constantly. To an almost comic level. You just want Josh to snap at some point, screaming out, “Yes! I get it. Thank you very much!”
But this is not what chains him. Ten years ago, his girlfriend Amelia died in a car wreck, thanks to a train careening into it, leaving him and Rusty strangely alive in the mashed up vehicle. No one in their right mind would come out of such a thing mentally unscathed, but it has really damaged the near somnambulist acting Josh. With the return of his creepy friend Rusty, who had been absent for years, his life starts to get a little more colorful. Well, if you call badly hitting on women who are both blatantly uninterested and blatantly lesbian colorful. But it is the appearance of Emily (Tania Raymonde), a pretty 18 year old brunette who shows up to apply for a waitress job at the pizza joint, that starts to shake up Josh. She bears more than a passing resemblance to Amelia and on top of that, it seems like no one has physically seen her. Except for, of course, Josh. But when a potential red herring is thrown into the mix, concerning a cryptic conversation between her and Rusty, all bets are off. Throw in some creepy images of a beyond the grave Amelia and the water just grows increasingly murky. Will Josh be reunited with his one true love? Is Emily everything she says she is? Will Chad get to score with one of the lesbians? Well, I think you can probably X the last one out but there is a nice twist ending that will more than likely surprise you.
THE HAUNTING OF AMELIA originally debuted on the Showtime Network, which is fitting since there is a TV movie quality going on here. The pacing is leisurely enough to incorporate commercial breaks if need be and is mild enough in content to where it could air uncut on any broadcast or basic cable channel. Even the non-instrumental portions of the soundtrack are largely reminiscent of such insipid teen shows as Dawson's Creek. The acting as a whole is even TV quality, which isn't an insult, though the only actor that really gets a chance to pop is Chad Lindberg. He is going to be one to look out for since he has some raw charisma going on, which inadvertently makes Rusty a more dynamic character than the hero. Brendan Fehr is fine as Josh but he isn't really given a whole lot to do, other than just mope around and look vaguely unhappy. The bad Dawson's Creek-esque music doesn’t do him or anyone else any favors. Did I mention how bad the music is?
The rest of the cast is pretty able, though such talented performers like Stephanie Weir as Josh's boss go pretty much wasted here. Her character's subplot involving selling part of her pizza business just fades in and out without a huge amount of reason. Then by the last 20-30 minutes, she's gone with little to no resolution. It just feels more like an afterthought than a well-integrated thread into the plot.
All the technical aspects are well handled and lovely natural scenery abounds. Despite some of the unevenness of the script, some obvious thought and intelligence was incorporated. It's far from perfect but is well made enough to show a lot of promise for all involved.
If you like your supernatural
movies to be like a cup of milky Earl Grey tea, meaning slightly bold
but nothing too strong to swallow first thing in the morning, then you
could very much love THE HAUNTING OF AMELIA. If you are
looking for something more unique or extreme, then you will be better
off looking elsewhere for your ghostly genre kicks.