A shrewdly moody attempt at an old-fashioned ghost story with a Native American twist, “Imprint” generates a respectable amount of suspense without resorting to either cheap shocks or splashy f/x. This low-key indie drama is likely too subdued and unspectacular to compete in the mainstream theatrical marketplace. But strategically pinpointed regional engagements could prime the pump for a successful DVD rollout.
Tonantzin Carmelo (TNT’s “Into the West”) persuasively conveys equal measures of anxiety and intelligence as Denver assistant prosecutor Shayla Stonefeather. Shayla has a close encounter with the supernatural when she returns to the Pine Ridge Reservation in the badlands of South Dakota to visit her dying father (Charlie White Buffalo).
Very soon after she arrives back at her family home, she is startled by things that go bump in the night. But she’s the only one aware of the spooky sounds — her father is near-catatonic, and her mother (Carla-Rae Holland) claims not to hear anything out of the ordinary.
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At first, Shayla suspects she’s being stalked by local relatives of a young Native American she successfully prosecuted for manslaughter. But as she continues to hear portentous noises — and, worse, starts to see ghostly visions — she fearfully considers a possible connection to her long-missing brother’s inexplicable disappearance.
To their credit, writer-helmer Michael Linn and co-scripter Keith Davenport provide a modestly surprising pay-off that is both dramatically satisfying and (within this context) ingeniously logical. Unfortunately, the filmmakers are somewhat less adroit when it comes to avoiding cliches while clouding the waters and serving red herrings. Blame it on lazy writing or inefficient acting, but at least one supporting character is too obviously villainous much too early in the pic.
Even so, Carmelo sustains sympathy and interest as she subtly shades a familiar stereotype — a disillusioned skeptic who re-embraces her ancestral culture — with enough specificity to resemble a flesh-and-blood human being. Linn’s attractive lensing of the South Dakota locales also helps “Imprint” make a generally favorable impression.