An Ambush of Ghosts

Director: Everett Lewis
Screenwriters: Quinton Peeples

Institute History

  • 1993 Sundance Film Festival


Everett Lewis, who received acclaim at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival for his stylized and dynamic The Natural History of Parking Lots, returns with a fascinating portrait of a young man struggling to come to grips with his mother's recurring bouts of insanity, caused by the death of her child. George Betts (Stephen Dorff) is more troubled than the average teen. His family life is, to say the least, dysfunctional, and George must find emotional gratification elsewhere. His "friendship" with a slightly older classmate, whose own fits of rage have resulted in a murderous outburst and subsequent flight from the authorities, prompts him to provide refuge in the family's garden shed, and his attraction to his friend's hip, alluring girlfriend culminates in stormy malevolence.

But a narrative description of An Ambush of Ghosts is inadequate to help us appreciate its qualities. As in his earlier work, Lewis adopts a tone and aesthetic which filter and transform our responses. George is caught between the effects of his mother's obsessive guilt and the attractive catharsis of his friend's actions. His hallucinations increase, and his mental projections of a normal, adjusted family life intrude on his stability. Dorff's performance is subtle and moving, and Lewis's use of claustrophobic camera angles and eerie music underscores the tension in the boy's evolution. Carefully framed with an attention to detail that contributes to the overall stylized atmosphere, the film creates a distinctive world within which the fate of George Betts's inner demons can be determined. This is a haunting film whose delicate denouement is far more powerful than the combustions of the usual melodrama.

Friday Jan 22 1:15 pm
Holiday Village Cinema II

Sunday Jan 24 7:30 pm
Holiday Village Cinema III

Thursday Jan 28 1:15 pm
Holiday Village Cinema II

Friday Jan 29 10:00 pm
Egyptian Theatre


— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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