Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ghost Story (1981)

Fear 1/5
Gore 2/5
Entertainment 2/5
Creepiness 2/5
Nightmares 0/5

Ghost Story is what happens when you try to "class" up a horror movie by focusing way to much on the wrong things. What could have been a creepy and scary tale about revenge and guilt instead became a slow and, ultimately, dull exercise in standard "thriller" fare. This is not to say that there were not moments I truly enjoyed - John Houseman's overbearing and hammy presence is always welcome in my book. There are also some truly gruesome corpse-effects happening as well along with one or two scares that are pretty effective. And, of course, with a cast made up with older actors whose best work was in the 1940s and 50's, you can safely assume that the acting is well done.

Ghost Story is based on a Peter Straub novel which, right from the top, should give you some insight into the creativity of the tale. Straub, who is sort of a less annoying and slightly more literate Stephen King, is known for horror novels that are well done, but, like this film, kind of dull and lacking any twists that might liven things up. And so it goes with Ghost Story: Four crusty old guys who make up the last members of the "Chowder Club" ("Society"?) are being haunted by nightmares brought on by the guilt of an event that happened 50 years ago. Each is being picked off by the ghost of a woman who shares in their dark secret.

It's obvious that the men have done something bad that resulted in her death - this is made clear from the first ten minutes of the movie - and the majority of the film is spent rewinding and telling the "dark secret" they share. And this takes way too much time in an attempt to be "literate" and pay homage to the older suspense films that the actors would otherwise be associated with (Fred Astaire excluded). The major problem with the film (aside from the incredibly annoying and ever present soundtrack) is that it's unsure of who it's audience is. There are some pretty gross scenes where the rotten corpse of the victim shows up to kill people, which, even by today's standards, is pretty icky. And there is plenty of nudity and nasty sex to keep any teenager happy. But the main characters and pace of the film seems directed towards an older audience which creates a weird kind of conflict and lack of continuity in what you're watching. One minute you're watching two ugly 70's people engage in acrobatic sex, the next a dapper young man is singing songs from the 1930's in soft focus to a wishy-washy soundtrack. It's a mess.

- Complaint Department

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