Stars: Craig Wasson, Alice Krige, Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., John Houseman, Patricia Neal, Jacqueline Brookes, Miguel Fernandes, Lance Holcomb, Brad Sullivan | Written by Lawrence D. Cohen | Directed by John Irvin
Four elderly gentlemen form The Chowder Society, a group in which they meet up to smoke cigars and tell chilling ghost stories in an attempt to scare each other. Hiding from a dark secret of their past, they use their stories to push it from their memories. When one of the member’s sons dies in strange circumstances though, it seems that their past transgressions have come back to haunt them in a soul that refuses to let go of her vengeance.
Ghost Story is based on Peter Straub’s novel, and we get to hear plenty from the author on this Blu-ray release. This gives a good insight into an eighties movie that feels very original. What truly stands out though is the cast. It is not often, even in an eighties movie that we get a case that includes such icons as Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and John Houseman together. This is what you got in this movie and it makes it truly stand out as something special.
The haunting itself is almost ironically not a typical “Ghost” story. The spirit played by Alice Krige is looking for revenge, but we as the audience never truly understand what she is, as she is not a ghost in the traditional sense. We can guess she is a vengeful spirit of some kind, but even in that respect she seems very much alive especially in her seduction of the sons of one of the Chowder Society. Whatever she is, she manipulates the men around her, even after death, with the aim of making her killers pay for what they did.
Listening to the director’s commentary that is included is interesting, because John Irvin (the director) see’s the relationship between the men and the victim Eva as being about control and fear, all from the male point of view. As the older men are fighting the past, they are still fearing this confident woman who met her doom at their hands, but refuses to die. This is where the strength lies in the movie, because we the audience want to see exactly what her vengeance will finally be.
What makes Ghost Story a unique horror movie though is that it never lets itself be defined, even by its own name. There are many questions raised, and the answers often come in violence, which as a result never allow for a definitive answer. This just leaves the audience even more bemused. As horror fans know there are not many horror films, especially in the eighties, that were brave enough to create this kind of dilemma, and this is what makes Ghost Story so good.
Second Sight have provided fans with a quality release, not only with a very good quality remaster of the movie but also with interesting special features. If you want a Ghost Story that is truly haunting, then this is a very good film to watch, especially with this Blu-ray release.
Ghost Story is available on Blu-ray and DVD from December 7th, courtesy of Second Sight.