By Don Simpson | May 14, 2015
Director: Blake Eckard
Writer: Blake Eckard
Starring: Ryan Harper Gray, Frank Mosley, Arianne Margot, Jon Jost, Misty Ballew, Jennifer George
Lonnie Enright (Ryan Harper Gray) returns to Empire Prairie with tales of his [presumably fake] career as a rodeo rider. We may never know the truth about Lonnie’s recent past, but it is obvious that he was not very successful at whatever it entailed. Lonnie only seems qualified to be a womanizer and a drunk, so it makes perfect sense that Lonnie sets his sights on the slutty local barmaid, Dawn (Arianne Margot).
While Lonnie was away, his brother, Ted (Frank Mosley), had to stay in Empire Prairie to take care of their curmudgeonly alcoholic father (Jon Jost). Other than sharing the familiar propensity for alcohol, Ted is the complete opposite of his brother. Lonnie takes it upon himself to save his younger brother from a boring life as a shy and introverted virgin, yet Empire Prairie does not seem to offer Ted any other options.
Blake Eckard’s quietly brooding Ghosts of Empire Prairie abides by a slow and meandering narrative arc, patiently allowing the ensemble cast to fully embody their characters. Lensed by Jon Jost, Ghosts of Empire Prairie relies heavily upon the dilapidated environment to provide motivation for the subtly menacing characters; all the while, certain oblique qualities add a dark fairytale air to the intense naturalism.
Ghosts of Empire Prairie reveals the disturbing underbelly of a seemingly quaint and tranquil small Midwestern town. The peeling paint of severely weathered structures, dying fields of grains, and perpetually dusty roads form an existential purgatory of sorts. A ghost town populated by aimless souls, Empire Prairie is a secluded and forgotten place that has been culturally and economically exiled from the wealthy urban centers of the United States. Severely hindered by the agricultural region’s economic restraints, Empire Prairie breeds nihilism. Loneliness, hopelessness and despair permeate every orifice of the community. What once was idyllic is now crippled with depression.