I guess I need to learn to pay better attention to what I'm renting because I grabbed "Last Kind Words" while I was in a hurry, and from glancing at the box, it wasn't quite what I expected. I was pretty interested when I saw Brad Dourif (Rob Zombie's "Halloween," and "Halloween 2," etc) was in a movie about someone who finds corpses hanging in their woods at night. Unfortunately, what I didn't realize that this wasn't really as much of a "horror" movie, as much as it is another "Twilight"-esque teenage romance set within a horror movie framework.
The story revolves around a boy named Eli who moves out into rural Kentucky with his family to work for a farmer named Waylon, who is played by Brad Dourif. He quickly makes friends with a dead girl named Amanda, and spends the rest of the movie obsessing over her. Apparently there is a special tree in the woods, that if people die while being hung from it they will come back as a ghost, and if the bodies are cut down, the ghost disappears.
We find out that Amanda was Waylon's sister and had been planning on running away with Eli's father when they were young. When Waylon had found out, he killed Amanda by hanging her from the magical ghost-tree. Eli remains obsessed with Amanda even though she is his father's ex-girlfriend -- a fact that becomes the only actual creepy thing about the whole movie. I mean, what kind of kid want's their dad's sloppy seconds? Eli's dad confronts Waylon with a pitchfork and Waylon kills him by pushing him off of a balcony.
The farmer warns Eli to stay away from Amanda by explaining that she is dangerous and a murderer. However, we find out later that for some inexplicable reason Waylon is lying and only wants Amanda for himself. He subsequently hangs himself from the same noose on the ghost-tree so he can try to rape his sister. In order to save Amanda from being ghost-raped Eli has to cut Waylon and Amanda's corpse from the tree which extinguishes them both.
Afterwards Eli is so torn up about his twice-dead ex-girlfriend that he hangs himself from the magic tree and then walks around clutching the same white ghost-rabbit that Amanda had carried around earlier in the movie. Several years later he falls in love with a young girl who moves to the farm, which I suppose further perpetuates the viscous cycle of suicide and ghost-rape.
This movie was awful for a lot of reasons, but if I had to pick the worst it would be the lack of screen-presence by the actress who plays Amanda. If we're supposed to buy into the romantic fantasy of the movie then Amanda has to be incredibly desirable, but as she attempts to play a seductive woman, she instead comes across as dull and vapid. Having charismatic actors is incredibly important for movies, and it's a sad trend in lower-budget horror that a lot of filmmakers simply try to cast the most attractive people they can, instead of looking for people with actual talent. Apparently many filmmakers think that a character being beautiful is the quickest way to establish empathy, or a connection with an audience. This is a big mistake because charisma is infinitely more important than beauty, and the real issue is that the problem can compound on itself: if an actor is beautiful but talentless it may ultimately make the audience resent the character.
If there is anything good to say about this movie there are a few decent performances from the actresses that play Eli's mother and his girlfriend from town, who is infinitely more likable than Amanda despite not being quite as perfect looking. In fact, the movie would have been much better served to have had these actresses swap characters. Unfortunately, neither of their characters are in the film much, or serve any purpose to the story. This raises another issue: there are a lot of plot threads that serve no purpose whatsoever. For instance Eli's father is abusive and Waylon owes money to the local loan-shark -- apparently, you can find violent loan-sharks out in the boonies of Kentucky. None of these things really have anything to do with the story.
It's certainly possible to make a really great hang-out movie about a kid and his dead friend, however, even the moments of this movie that are supposed to be fun are cringe-worthy. My best advice is to not watch this movie under any circumstances. "Last Kind Words" is basically a "Twilight" cash-in, but at least those movies are goofy enough that you can laugh at them. This movie doesn't even have that much going for it.