Clara’s Ghost Is A Twisted Family Affair

Reviewed by Kristy Puchko

There’s a unique kind of horror found within families. Inside jokes can become a cozy place to nestle insults. Old wounds and deepening resentments can be papered over with any new bit of family gossip or for any get together. But in the horror-comedy Clara’s Ghost, a brush with the potentially paranormal pushes a mild-mannered mom to lash out against the family that’s tradition is casually berating her.

The directorial debut of writer/helmer/actress Bridey Elliott, Clara’s Ghost centers on the Reynolds family as they reunite to celebrate the birthday of their beloved dog. This is a showbiz family, which means the richly decorated house is overflowing with ego and rivalries. Ted Reynolds (Chris Elliott) was once a big-name actor, but nowadays he’s a has-been battling for a recurring role on a web-series. Years before, his daughters Riley and Julie Reynolds (Bridey and Abby Elliott) were wildly famous child stars, similar to the Olsen twins. Now grown, Julie is a vain actress with a sketchy producer for a fiancé, while Riley is scraping by with celebrity appearances at Brooklyn bars and begging her parents for help with her bills. Whenever this trio comes together, they exchange stories about the biz along with biting remarks that prick at a pulsing jealousy. But no barbs are as harsh as those piled on Clara (Paula Niedert Elliott), a former Playboy bunny who is their doting wife and mother.

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Isidora Goreshter and Paula Niedert Elliott in Clara’s Ghost (2018)

In intimate moments alone, Clara dances to melancholic music with silky sexuality, and it’s easy to imagine her as the smoking hot trophy wife on the arm of a popular star. Though still beautiful, sensual and caring, Clara’s regarded as little more than a joke to the family to whom she’s dedicated her life. While they banter and bicker about auditions, juice cleanses, and photo shoots, she is ruthlessly ignored. Her anecdotes earn sneers. Her dismay over a missing shoe gets only eye-rolls. Her claim to fame dismissively slut-shamed. She’s crying for help. She craves their attention, but not even her story about a ghost (an enchanting Isidora Goreshter) begging to be let in will garner their concern. That is until it nearly gets them killed. . .

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