Directed by John Irvin [Other horror films: Haunted: The Ferryman (1974), Dot.Kill (2005)]
I have to admit that I wish I liked this one more than I do. I’ve seen it once before, but didn’t remember too much about it aside from the general idea and a few scenes. And damn it, just that alone was enough for me to consider the movie good, but after seeing it with fresh eyes and keeping my expectations in check, I need to be honest and admit that I think Ghost Story had potential but ultimately faltered.
The cast is stellar here, my favorites being the old-timers in the Chowder Society, being Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and John Houseman. I don’t particularly know any of these actors well (Melvyn Douglas being the potential exception, as I’ve seen him in The Old Dark House, The Vampire Bat, and The Changeling), but I think they work fantastically off each other. They strike me as life-long friends, and to quote Icona Pop, “I love it.”
Elsewise, we have Craig Wasson and Alice Krige. Wasson, of course, was Neil in Dream Warriors (he looks different enough here that if you didn’t catch on to this fact, I wouldn’t blame you), and he was certainly decent in that film, but here, he doesn’t really make a huge impression (even during his extended flashback). As for Krige, I definitely dug her character in the flashback (along with feeling rather bad for her), but for most of the film, she doesn’t especially overwhelm with personality.
I think many of the film’s better scenes take place during the Chowder Society flashback in the latter half of the film, and much of what came before felt somewhat plodding, especially Wasson’s flashback, little of which really interested me (and there wasn’t much of an ommpf at the end to even make the sequence worth it). I mean, the location was great – a small, New England town enshrouded in snowfall – but the story, while occasionally atmospheric, just fell flat, and the whole subplot with the escaped asylum patients didn’t do a thing for me.
Certainly I respect the way they decided to tell the story here, what with multiple flashbacks with some tense scenes in-between during the present-day, but I can’t help but think that if we had seen a bit more of the younger Chowder Society (Ken Olin, Kurt Johnson, Tim Choate, and Mark Chamberlin), things would have maybe smoothed out a bit (not that any of those four are near as good as their older counterparts, but those sequences were still enjoyable and, near the ending, tragic). That said, it still made for a fine idea, it’s just the execution felt a bit weak.
And alas, I think that could really be said for the whole of the film. I wish I could enjoy the film more than I do, but it just runs on too long with too little content of interest, and ultimately, I think Ghost Story, while it has some strong points, ultimately ends up only of moderate interest.
3 thoughts on “Ghost Story (1981)”