Director: Bill Travis
Writers: Mark Patrick Carducci and Brian Thomas Jones
Cast: Frank Hamilton, Richard Clarke, Terres Unsoeld, and Paul Sparer
Composer: Charlie Morrow
Air Date: 10/11/1987
Hoping to compel his skeptic friend, Harry Bainbridge (Richard Clarke), to accept the reality of paranormal phenomena, Algernon Colesbury (Frank Hamilton) builds a device for photographing ghosts with impeccable clarity. While conducting experiments in a haunted house, however, Algernon discovers a terrible drawback of his otherwise nifty invention.
“The Spirit Photographer” is marred by dated special effects and occasionally weak performances. Nevertheless, this episode benefits from a poignant twist ending, a quirky main character, and a clever supernatural premise.
Despite operating on a shoestring budget, “The Spirit Photographer” maintains a chilling atmosphere due to its effective use of horror tropes. Especially ominous are the occult images, spooky sounds, and ghostly occurrences that haunt the protagonist during his attempt to prove, beyond a “shadow” of a doubt, the existence of paranormal activity.
“The Spirit Photographer” will likely evoke criticism, even among the most forgiving of horror fans, for its Z-grade production values. Notably, a simple transparency effect creates the appearance of a female ghost, who, due to a lack of convincing camera trickery, fails to embody the shadowy vagueness that many would associate with a spectral figure.
Also poor-quality is the acting of Terres Unsoeld, who may induce unintended laughter with her excessive moaning, bodily contortions, and orgasmic facial expressions—all of which serve to oversell the tormented nature of the phantom Lenore.
Though a generic ghost tale when considered at face value, “The Spirit Photographer” should be commended for its thoughtful examination of the following themes: the pros and cons of pursuing a hobby to the point of obsession, the intellectual snobbery of many self-proclaimed skeptics, and the potential dangers of tampering with unknown forces.
“The Spirit Photographer” is a creepy installment of Tales from the Darkside. Specifically worth praising is the original concept for this episode, which will appeal to fans of the horror/paranormal genre.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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