HERE LIES... Hilton Edwards' short film Return to Glennascaul, mauled by Disney's Bear Country.
Andreas here with another spooky Oscar Horrors case file! This time, it's a ghost story. And who doesn't love a good ghost story? (Other than the Academy, I suppose.) Return to Glennascaul (1953) retells a traditional urban legend, that of the "vanishing hitchhiker," but with so much flair and atmosphere that its overfamiliarity doesn't matter. The set-up is classic: it's late at night, on a winding road outside Dublin, and the narrator stops to pick up a stranded motorist. But aha, a twist: the narrator is in fact Orson Welles, on a break from Othello! What better addition to a ghost story than Orson, that master raconteur, he of the perfect radio voice?
Aother small twist: his passenger isn't a ghost, but instead has his own eerie story of two mysterious women and the old abandoned house he drove them to, a house called Glennascaul. All these framing devices, coupled with Orson Welles playing a wry version of himself, make the short feel like a "friend-of-a-friend" anecdote. Like something built up too plausibly not to be true. And hey, who knows what can or can't happen in the misty Irish countryside? The women themselves (one old, one young) seem harmless enough, if a little kooky, until Orson's new friend contacts the realtor trying to sell Glennascaul... and, of course, learns that they've both been dead for years. (If that's a spoiler, then you should really bone up on your campfire stories.
This is some subtle horror, certainly, but it grows in power as the climax hits—as the gentleman makes the titular return, only to discover a dusty, desolate house with no residents to speak of. Truly haunting. In addition to Orson's baritone, the film's carpeted by a sparse piano and harp score, and it's shot in chiaroscuro black and white; exactly the minimalism that the material calls for. Sometimes, as Return to Glennascaul teaches us, all you need to tell a chilling story is 20 minutes, a little music, and an old house. Oh, and Orson Welles.
It may not have won the Oscar (thanks, Disney) but it will send shivers up your spine.