Alex (Katreeva Phillips) has been pulled homeward from her busy big city life as an investigative journalist: Her estranged father has died. She’s long since distanced herself from her family, however, from the moment she drove away from their Texas home with nary a goodbye to her father or sister. Sis isn’t cutting Alex any slack in the situation, however, and for good reason: Alex has gotten her dates confused and has completely missed her father’s funeral.
It seems pretty clear that she just doesn’t have time for family now that she’s living the life in the big-city as a hotshot journalist. Journalism is a tough field, though, and we learn that she’s also in hot water with her boss; where’s that next big investigative story she keeps promising will appear in his inbox?
In tears, Alex pulls into her father’s house to find it almost entirely barren, with no pictures, books, or any other possessions. A metaphor for her family, the few remaining pieces of furniture are covered with sheets, abandoned. Empty beer cans are scattered across the floor too. She realizes, too late, that her father could really have used her in his life as an anchor.
When she finds an old Smith-Corona typewriter and her father’s 80s-era cassette player with a cassette labeled “The Ghost Lights”, she’s definitely intrigued. Of course, she presses PLAY to find out what was obsessing her father Aurthur (John Francis McCullagh). She’s been too busy to remain a part of his troubled life but she has inherited his curiosity about strange stories and the desire to solve seemingly inexplicable mysteries..
In a series of flashbacks, we are taken back to her father’s interviews with Mario (Billy Blair), a drifter stuck in a sleepy Texan town just a few miles from the Mexican border. He has quite a tale to tell of “the ghost lights”, glowing spheres that appear in the desert on occasion. Everyone in town has seen at one point or the other, he assures Aurthur. Worse, if you get too close, you’ll vanish, as he claims happened to his own father many years earlier.
Are the lights something paranormal? Or maybe an alien artifact? Adding to the oddness of the situation, there is a mysterious government facility just a few miles away. In the here and now, as Alex travels down this rabbit hole, deciding to visit the Texan town to try and meet Mario, she begins to notice an ominous Man in Black (writer/director Timothy Stevens) who seems to always be on the periphery of her vision.
The Ghost Lights is not a polished story or film, but there are glimmers of something terrific here, making it a worthwhile watch. It feels like an “early film before his career really started to take off” sort of movie, written, directed, shot, and co-starring Timothy Stevens. The Ghost Lights could be an episode of The Twilight Zone or perhaps The X Files, with just a bit of additional work to smooth out the rough edges. As is, though, The Ghost Lights is a harbinger of things to come from this talented writer/director.