« A Great Prize and an Honour for the European Section in Emile Zola High School »

January 21th 2015

Last November, all the students of 2de 3 had the opportunity to go the annual short film festival Courtmétrange in TNB Cinema. Not only did they had the chance to watch five very good short films, but they also participated to a competition entitled « Critique sur court » which consisted in writing a review of the film they had chosen in English.

The reviews were then sent to a jury composed of cinema experts and English speakers. On January 13th, the jury presented the results, and all the pupils and the teachers were extremely proud to learn that, out of 150 reviews in English, the first prize in English had been awarded to Oumaïma El Fakir for her outstanding review of the film Ghost Train by Lee Cronin.

On January 21, Oumaïma, along with a couple of classmates, went to collect her prize at the party organized by Courtmétrange, during which she had the opportunity to read her excellent review to the public.

Emma, Oumaïma and Garance

Congratulations again to her ! This prize is indeed an honour for the European section, and a great reward for the excellent work all the students produced on that occasion.

Here is the review written by Oumaïma


If you really think that I, the girl who is not into horror movies at all, actually enjoyed Ghost Train then you are 100% right. But after watching it, I can say that I’ll probably think twice before getting on a ghost train again. Or maybe three times… Released in 2013, Lee Cronin’s short film is certainly about to blow your minds, and I’m using my words thoughtfully. The curiosity and the recklessness of children can sometimes lead to some serious problems as you will see it… Now the question is, are you brave enough to ride this train ?

Two brothers Michael (Owen McDonnell) and Peter (Steve Wall) take a trip to an abandoned fairground where their childhood friend, Sam, went missing thirty years ago in traumatic circumstances. But this time, everything is different because Michael has something to get off his chest. Something that will build the puzzle and become the final piece of it… It starts with this simple but creepy soundtrack, and it is easy to guess that something crazy will happen. We are already so much into the film that we almost forget to admire the breathtaking overhead shot that shows the Irish landscape. Michael is on a train, (I see what you did there Mr Cronin) on his way to meet his brother for their annual tribute, and we can tell he is upset. He has an important thing to confess and the revelation will lead them straight down a road of horror. It’s not too late to move backwards, just saying… With only 16 minutes to play, Ghost Train is a much better made film than the majority of feature length horrors. Visually, it’s really stunning and immaculately done. For example the haunted house is absolutely thrilling. Dead birds, creaking plank floor, scary insects coming out of nowhere… An huge skeleton keeps the funhouse with its arms around it. Death is watching us. The awakening of this skeleton is accompanied with some well-placed creaks. I assume that the mansion down your street that made your Halloweens more exciting, is nothing compared to this house. On the door, a skull with an open mouth awaits eagerly for its payment. « You must pay the full prize » is not on the movie sign for nothing… As Michael puts in coin after coin, the mystery house begins to come to life and the nightmare takes place under our eyes. The skull’s eyes light up and the old house begins emitting a horrifying roar. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

The story is not told chronologically and throughout the film, we are shown a terrifying back-story explaining why the two are here. The swapping between timelines by way of flashbacks is so impressive that it gives the sensation of being in their minds. We are witnessing the things they shouldn’t do. Why haven’t I heard about Lee Cronin before ? He is going to be big, mark my words. The present days have an icy blue palette contrasted with the sunny hue of thirty years ago. The atmosphere is extremely disquieting. On top of that, the whole action takes place in the same location which strengthens the fate of the situation. It gives a feeling of imprisonment. We seem to be trapped in a closed place where the future is inevitable. Thank God I was only in front of the screen. The thing I love the most about the movie is it can be related. But not in a direct way of course (unless your best friend is trapped inside a ghost train at an abandoned funfair for years now. Then don’t get me involved).

What I want to explain is that we all have regrets but when the past re-emerges, except try to escape it there’s not much we can do… Sometimes, we are so powerless to deal with our biggest regrets that looking back in order to repair things seems to be so much simpler than facing the truth. Both brothers are full of guilt for what happened on that tragic day and they are dealing with it in different ways : one is crippled with anxiety while the other consoles himself with excessive alcohol consumption. These men are living with remorse, and they can be qualified as ghosts. In fact, they are not even living anymore, they are just carrying the weight of their mistakes. The past makes the present and by trying to run away, Michael and Peter ran after their destiny. Moreover, the actors did an incredible job playing the characters. Even if the dialogue is poor, the performances are all strong, natural and convincing. To me, the way Michael says « I think of him everyday » is heartbreaking. He puts so much emotion that it could melt the hearts of even the stoniest among us. The emotions are shown through their faces expressions not with their words. The relationship between the two brothers is completely broken. It is really painful to see how brothers can suddenly become strangers. The saddest thing is that what tore them is apart is the only thing that reunites them. The entire ending is pretty shocking, and trust me, you’re not ready for it. But If had a negative thing to say it would be that it made the film unfinished. Let’s be honest, a perfect film does not exist. The final shot is also an overhead shot just like the first one, showing the three little boys running to their terrible lot. From the beginning to the end, we feel stronger than the characters by the use of overhead shots.

Overall, Ghost Train is bloody amazing. If you fancy a short film with a traditional but surprising story, and shots easily comparable to a major film, then look no further. Magnificent, thrilling and terrifying stuff, which uses a cast without a single weak link. Without a doubt it’s unlike anything I have seen before concerning short films. It will you give you some spine tingling chills. Did I say that this short film is hugely impressive ? Lee Cronin and his team succeeded in making a really creepy film without any clichéd frights, and over the top gore. I can only congratulate them for their remarkable job. This movie is definitely worth watching. It’s now safe to say that revenge is a dish best served cold. Really cold…You are still here ? What are you waiting for ?