Sunday 13 February 2022

REVIEW: Miss Willoughby and the Haunted Bookshop - Starring Nathalie Cox and Kelsey Grammer

Review by Jon Donnis
Brad Watson directs Miss Willoughby and the Haunted Bookshop, Elizabeth Willoughby a University professor, played by Nathalie Cox, has an insatiable appetite for investigation and is asked by some old family friends to investigate a series of hauntings at their antique bookstore.

Elizabeth Willoughby lost her parents at a young age, she is raised by a family friend Robert Thompson, (Kelsey Grammar) who is now her legal guardian, and we start off with Elizabeth Willoughby as a young child, being taught everything from literature, to chess, to self-defence and martial arts.

After some early scenes we fast forward to the present and Elizabeth Willoughby is now a grown woman. (Not really sure how old the character is supposed to be, perhaps a fair bit younger than Nathalie Cox is in real life) A successful career woman, a University Professor. After visiting her favourite bookstore, she meets up with Helen Deakin (Louise Bangay) and her husband Oliver Deakin (Steven Elder). Helen claims that the bookstore is haunted, as she keeps seeing her deceased father. Helen asks Elizabeth if she can help discover what is happening.

I imagine you are expecting a ghost story right? Well, you would be wrong outside of some short scenes with an EMF meter and a digital recorder, listening for ghostly voices. The film quickly turns into a whodunnit type film. Is Helen going crazy or is she really seeing the ghost of her father. People are going missing, kidnapped, a bit of everything.

The film is set in England in the present time, but there is something about this film that makes me think it would fit better if it was set in an age before computers and high-end technology.

For British people, there are plenty of semi famous British actors in this film, for me the highlight was a brief appearance from Marc Bannerman (Gianni in Eastenders) doing his best posh accent. 

I think the main problems with this film is that it is not much of a whodunnit, since the bad guys are pretty obvious. It's not much of a supernatural film, outside of some pretty simple ghostly special effects. And the whole first chapter of the film, the training of a young girl, chess the martial arts etc, doesn't seem to have much point, when fast forward to the present, and the only use of fighting skills is a straight punch to the face. Did we really need extended training montages of a young kid hitting a punch bag, an Okinawan Wooden Man and garden karate shots?

And the whole chat at the end between Elizabeth Willoughby and Robert Thompson where she explains how she solved it, seemed a bit forced, as if they really needed to explain every little detail to the viewer.

I did laugh, perhaps unintentionally, at the "I could see that coming a mile away" final scene.

Yes that's Bhavna Limbachia from Coronation St!

The Good
Beautifully filmed, some decent acting from the cream of British drama, and a not too offensive story that you can sit and watch with the whole family.

The Bad
I think they could have done a lot more with the whole supernatural angle that wasn't. And the film comes across a bit more Scooby Doo with the reveals, than say Miss Marple.

I imagine if the film does well, more will be made. Not really a film for me, but I can see a mixture of Pensioners and young kids enjoying this.

I score Miss Willoughby and the Haunted Bookshop a safe 6/10

Out Now on DVD