Blu-ray Review: GHOST STORY

2015/12/29 17:23:30 +00:00 | Heather Wixson

Ghost Story is a film I spent a lot of time watching as a child, but you don’t really hear folks talk about it too often anymore, unfortunately. A film driven by atmosphere and a quiet sense of foreboding dread, Ghost Story is the hauntingly provocative adaptation of Peter Straub’s supernaturally-charged novel that proves that even though you may think you are done with the past, the past isn’t always necessarily done with you.

It’s a film that has for the most part aged well, despite the fact that director John Irvin practically wastes the talents of Ghost Story’s main ensemble, while the script from the usually solid Lawrence D. Cohen (Carrie) is just a tonal mess from start to finish. Despite all that though, Ghost Story—much like its otherworldly antagonist—has this weirdly hypnotic power to it, drawing you in despite its flaws and making it hard to look away even when the story meanders away from the film’s main mystery. It had been years and years since I last watched it and I have to say that Scream Factory’s recent Blu-ray release of Ghost Story makes for the perfect way to revisit this odd little cult classic.

Ghost Story transports us to the sleepy New England town of Milburn where four elderly gentlemen of the Chowder Society (Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and John Houseman) gather each week to share ghost stories amongst their small group. However, there is one story about a young woman from Milburn who disappeared 50 years ago that is never discussed, and seems to have some bearing over the group. As the men all begin to suffer hallucinatory nightmares, one of their sons is mysteriously killed, and the Chowder Society is forced to deal with their past misdeeds before it's too late for everyone.

Oh and it also has a young Craig Wasson (Doctor Gordon from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) doing unspeakable sexual acts to an ethereal Alice Krige (the Borg Queen from various Star Trek outings), so there’s that.

There’s very little "surprise" to Ghost Story, as Cohen’s script pretty much lays out just who is stalking the Chowder Society (and their kin) and what the apparition’s ultimate intent is rather early on. Instead, director Irvin makes this an affair that’s a bit more about creating a palpable mood filled with tension and a dreamlike uncertainty, where viewers are never quite sure just what is a fantasy and what is "reality."

The film’s quartet of older actors all do a wondrous job bringing a sense of gravitas to the picture, despite not having the greatest material at hand, giving Ghost Story an air of prestige and timelessness that heightens everything about the movie. Their presence alone certainly made Ghost Story a standout amongst its peers, as it was released during a time when mindless slashers featuring young, nubile casts of victims were all the rage in horror and most acclaimed actors wouldn’t dare be caught doing a genre project. As the newcomers, both Wasson and Krige give intriguing performances, but especially the latter, who plays her dual roles with an indescribable, transcendental quality that I found utterly fascinating upon revisiting as an adult—a performance akin to Isabelle Adjani in Possession (1981).

Revisiting Ghost Story was an experience that ended up being a bit more uneven than I remembered (some parts feel old-timey and other parts feel like you’ve been caught in the middle of a late-night Skinemax movie), but as a whole, it’s a film I find even more intriguing to watch as an adult, and I appreciate Scream Factory resurrecting it in HD so that I can dig into it a few more times (the DVD had been long out of print).

The audio and picture quality are both top-notch, as well as the supplemental features that include everything a fan of Ghost Story could ever want; the only bonus material I hadn’t checked out yet was the commentary track, but I will say that all the featurettes were really informative and entertaining as well, especially the interview with Krige. By and large, Scream Factory has done another stellar job with Ghost Story by giving yet another cult classic its moment to shine on Blu-ray.

Movie Rating: 3.5/5,  Disc Rating: 4/5

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.