Writer-director Michael Sajbel (One Night With the King), brings his convictions about the sanctity of all human life to his filmmaking in the independent film, Wraith. Not a typical vehicle for this counter-cultural message, the supernatural thriller tackles the question of abortion in a unique way that may appeal to audiences who would never watch a “pro-life” film.
Welcome to Neenah, Wisconsin where the Lukens family lives. The architecture of the area is fascinating, boasting a lot of big, old, family homes. The Lukens’ have lived in their house for ten years now but they may have to move.
Dennis Lukens (Jackson Hurst) is unemployed at the moment and is out looking for work. Katie (Ali Hillis), his wife, is a writer who explains to their teenage daughter, Lucy (Catherine Frances), that employment as a writer doesn’t bring in money to the family unless she gets published. Amongst these financial worries comes Katie’s unexpected pregnancy. Wondering whether they can afford another child and worrying about Katie’s age (she’s over 40), Katie and Dennis consider all options, including abortion.
When Lucy starts hearing odd things in their old house, Katie chalks it up to Lucy’s imagination but when Katie beings to hear things, too, she treks to the Neenah Public Library looking for information on the history of their home and the families who lived there. The local librarian, Mary Squire (Jensen Buchanan) helps her find the records while regaling Katie with a few of the local ghost stories connected with some of the old houses.
Wisconsin native, Sajbel, chose to shoot this low-budget film in his home state, noting that the homes in and around Neenah would be a perfect setting for his story. And it’s true. The house used in the film is incredibly beautiful as is the scenery of the outside scenes in the film. There’s a sense of peace and tranquility about the surroundings, which is why, when weird things start happening with escalating tension, you might wonder why something so strange and spooky is happening in such a nice place.
I applaud any filmmaker who goes out on a limb, like Sajbel has, to make a film that tackles an important issue like abortion from a Christian perspective in today’s world. I just wish they would make better films. Wraith’s best asset comes in the form of Lance Henriksen, who plays blind Father Ehrlich, a local priest whom Katie consults about the ghostly presence in her home. His nuanced performance captures the faith of his character, strong against evil, yet gentle with those who are searching. The same cannot be said of the actors who play the main characters, especially first-timer, Catherine Frances, whose performance of Lucy is, regrettably, quite overacted. On the plus side, she’s young so she has plenty of time to grow in her craft.
Wraith released on May 8th to Video-on-Demand platforms such as Amazon Prime, iTunes, YouTube, and Vimeo. Visit the film’s website to find out which platform is best suited to you: www.wraiththemovie.com.
A horror film might not seem like the most conventional way to present a pro-life story but the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s actually quite appropriate since we in the Church tend to refer to the “horror of abortion.” My guess is that this film would be appealing to youth ministers and those who work with young adults as a vehicle, not only for an entertaining (if somewhat predictable) movie, but a fun way to start a conversation about what we believe about the presence of the Devil in the world, and, especially, about the horror of abortion in our society.