Australian supernatural chiller The Ashes of Isadora Ivan manages to squeeze many tried-and-true ghost movie tropes into its running time of just under nine minutes, but it does this so effectively, and with enough original ideas as well as heart behind the story, that the short film feels like it is paying respect to its celluloid predecessors rather than simply doing the same old, same old.
The short opens with a distraught woman with a shaved head putting on makeup and then committing suicide. We soon learn that this is title character Isadora Ivan (Lisa Campos) and that her widower husband James (Tim Clarke) was cheating on her during her bout with leukemia. Erica (Hannah Monson), the object of his wayward affections, is now living with him and his young daughter Chloe (Emily Thomson), who refuses to speak to Erica. This is all set up quickly and efficiently so that the spooky stuff can get started without much adieu.
Isadora’s ashes are accidentally spilled during a power play between Erica and Chloe, and with James away on a trip, odd events immediately begin to take place. These include time-honored ghost movie occurrences such as doors opening by themselves, along with some new displays of creepiness (I’ll leave those for future viewers to discover so as not to spoil any surprises). For every jump scare or other well-worn approach used, writer/director Ryan Paturzo-Polson dishes up some startling and suspenseful moments that are clever and original.
The acting is solid and feels naturalistic. Hannah Monson gets the most screen time and is impressive as “the other woman” who feels like the deceased Isadora is sometimes inside her head. Her Erica is a vulnerable, insecure character who also needs to be an authority figure to Chloe. Monson is definitely a talent to watch. Emily Thompson does a nice job in a wordless performance as the young daughter who is not shy about letting Erica know just what she thinks of her through facial expressions, body language, and telling drawings. Lisa Campos’s silent performance that opens The Ashes of Isadora Ivan conveys a great deal of sadness in just a few shots. Tim Clarke also gives a convincing performance in his limited amount of screen time.
Although a lot of new ground isn’t necessarily broken in The Ashes of Isadora Ivan, Ryan Paturzo-Polson has crafted a well-told, skillfully paced short film that serves up a fair share of jolts and that addresses senses of loss, both for those left behind and those who have supposedly passed on.
The Ashes of Isadora Ivan: (3.5 / 5)