Indie Watch: Mallas, MA
Ghost hunting is something of a famous and funny profession these days. Between the SyFy’s Ghost Hunters series, found-footage films like Paranormal Activity, and that movie with Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man that shall remain nameless without Ray Parker Jr. coming through your computer’s speakers, ghost hunting is a job that few are brave enough to pursue and even fewer are willing to treat with credulity. Most people believe that paranormal investigators are con artists with no more psychic ability than Zsa Zsa Gabor, and I’m sure that there are quite a few members of the profession willing to swindle gullible people who are easily spooked by creaky floorboards, old plumbing, and drafty windows. There’s always that nagging question, though: what if ghosts do exist? What if the people who charge themselves with finding and expunging malignant spirits from haunted houses are telling the truth? It’s this spooky question that pervades Sean Meehan’s new short film Mallas, MA.
Made as part of a 48-hour film project in Boston, Mallas, MA (a title punning on the eponymous New England town’s phonetic similarity to “malice”) follows the experiences of Brian Higgins (Tim Cox) and Maria Synder (Maria Natapov), two con artists in the ghost hunting game. On a routine “investigation” into a supposedly haunted house, complete with phoney ectoplasm and staged ghostly pictures, the duo stumble upon a mysterious young girl (twins Uatchet Jin Juch and Nekhebet Kum Juch). Mute but responsive, Higgins and Synder use the girl to stage increasingly elaborate ghost sightings around Mallas. Unbeknownst to the two con artists, however, the girl is an apparition. Spooky.
As horror movies and thrillers go, Mallas, MA packs as much scariness as an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? Like that television series, though, Meehan’s film isn’t intended to induce nightmares. Instead, Mallas, MA is a thoughtful look at cynicism and how it clouds your ability to see the world.
The simple story and understated performances complement each other as the ghost story progresses. Distracted by the silent girl’s malleability in ghostly pictures, Higgins and Synder are oblivious to the supernatural force that they’re exploiting for profit. By the time that Higgins has a crisis of conscience and admits that he and his partner have been lying for a living, the confession rings hollow due to the presence of the ghost in the next room.
Mallas, MA doesn’t punish its main characters, but it does chide them for their cynicism and lack of belief in the power of their own craft. Meehan’s spooky little film has a gentle moral, but a good moral nonetheless: don’t let your own negativity cloud your ability to see extraordinary things.
A Gallery of Images from Mallas, MA