The Ghosts of Monday first published by VODzilla.co
“Look, over three seasons, we never found any evidence of paranormal activity,” TV presenter Bruce (Julian Sands) tells his director Eric (Mark Huberman) in Francesco Cinquemani’s The Ghosts of Monday. “It’s time to find something different.”
Eric and Bruce are with a small crew, including Eric’s estranged wife – and Bruce’s adopted daughter – Sofia (Marianna Rosset), PA Anna (Kristina Godunova), camera operator Jennifer (Flavia Watson) and sound recordist Christine (Elva Trill), in the long abandoned Grand Hotel Gula, Cyprus. There, on the 31st of December, 1990 (an unusual 53rd Monday of the year), a party of 100 élite guests all died from the rat poison placed in their New Year’s Eve feast – and ever since, or perhaps even long before, the place has been said to be haunted. Now a guest of couple Frank (Anthony Skordi) and Rosemary (Maria Ioannou) who are refurbishing the hotel and plan to reopen it, Eric is hoping to capture the resident spirits on film, and so to rescue his flagging career.
Bruce has other ideas, and is proposing that the team should resort to some fakery and special effects – some “old-style carny showmanship” – to win back viewers. The very idea is an affront to Eric’s ethical principles as a documentarian – until, that is, his financiers Dom (Loris Curci) and Pat (Joanna Fyllidou) make it clear that he has no choice, and that fabricating local ghost stories might help put Frank and Rosemary’s hotel back on the map. Yet even as Eric enters this Faustian pact, there does seem to be something lurking the hallways and galleries of this elegant edifice, its disembodied POV mimicked by the handheld camerawork that spies on these characters from various angles. “There is always someone – something watching us,” Sofia comments, even as she succumbs to an unnatural lethargy and vivid half dreams half memories of her own childhood connection with the building.
“Right now I’m just intrigued by the ghost stories that made this place so unpopular,” says Eric, no doubt mirroring the feelings and expectations of a viewer drawn by the promise of a film called The Ghosts of Monday – but perhaps, amid talk of local cults and sacrificial rites and an ancient god worshipped for millennia on the site where the hotel was built – there may really be something different wandering the shadows of these hallowed grounds. Cinquemani’s feature certainly looks back to that grandest of hotel ghost stories, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), as drinks are had (and deals made) in a deserted barroom, as twins (Elizabeth and Margaret Losikova) appear in the corridors, as a lift is bloodied, as an axe is taken up by the male protagonist, and as a very old photo impossibly features characters from the present day within its sepia-toned imagery.
Yet perhaps all these revenants from the past – and from cinema’s past – are a mere red herring, as something of a more mysterious, Lovecraftian nature lies dormant in the basement, just waiting for Eric and Sophia to meet with a timeless destiny of entrapment and eternal return. And once again, as at the film’s beginning, Eric’s refusal to play his part in this production and to do exactly what the masters of the house require may be his – and the world’s – apocalyptic undoing. Meanwhile, The Ghosts of Monday keeps renegotiating its own form and genre (haunted house! giallo! paranormal investigation! found footage! cultic conspiracy! Elder Gods!), all in an attempt to “find something different” in the deep layers of a hotel’s foundations, and in the contested grounds of a country with a long history of colonisation, annexation and division.
strap: Francesco Cinquemani’s hotel horror confounds form and genre in its self-conscious quest to “find something different”