Sara Driver’s third film is a low-budget, German-shot indie that could succeed as family entertainment. A ghost story in the “Topper” mold, it gives an original, scruffy twist to all the main cliches of the genre, while soft-pedaling tale’sgrimmer implications. Instead of the indie audiences that went for Driver’s arty “Sleepwalk,””Pigs” could fly with mainstream and TV viewers.
Pic’s grungy, post-punk signature gives a modicum of style more comic than disturbing. Film was shot in a nameless German wasteland that convincingly mimics a hip New Jersey no-man’s land.
Slobby bachelor Marty (Alfred Molina), a young, wasted jazz musician, lives in a run-down haunted house with his equally spacey dog. The dwelling is on the edge of a town that seems not to exist, in a mysterious Irish-American community on the verge of extinction.
Action alternates between the house and a sleazy bar, the Rose of Erin, where bored, buxom Sheila (Maggie O’Neill) dances on the counter for owner Frank’s (Seymour Cassel) deadbeat customers.
Sheila has a soft spot for Marty, and brings over a rocking chair that’s “inhabited” by two playful but harmless spooks — the wife (Marianne Faithfull) who Cassel beat to death and a Victorian child (Rachel Bella) straight out of Charles Addams. They help Sheila and Marty get off the skids, and use them to take revenge on the brutal Cassel, who wanted to throw the chair out.
Pic is stuffed with small jokes and treats, like the dog’s dream and Molina flying over fields with a pint-sized piano student. Pic’s scenic squalor is a laugh in itself.
Acting is OK, dialogue’s a snooze. Faithfull has a gentle, reassuring screen presence, and gets to sing one number, but has little range to develop her character as the slightly teed-off ghost.
Music ranges confidently from “Rose of Erin” and “Danny Boy” to Thelonious Monk.