Blu-ray Review: Ghost Story

There’s bit of fun when people gather around a fire and swap scary stories. Each person does his best to top the other with the unexpected and grotesque. They each want to be the one that makes everyone stay up until the sun comes up fearing the nightmare will be even worst. The Chowder Society preferred to merely sit around a fireplace and tell their stories. The four elderly New England men had been pals since college. Businessman Ricky Hawthorne (Top Hat‘s Fred Astaire), lawyer Sears James (Paper Chase‘s John Houseman), Dr. John Jaffrey (Being There‘s Melvyn Douglas) and Mayor Edward Charles Wanderley (The Prisoner of Zenda‘s Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) are as tight as they come. Each is eager to frighten each other in Ghost Story.

While the guys swap supernatural tales, a nightmare truly happens for the Mayor. His son David
(Body Double‘s Craig Wasson) returns to bed with his lady. When she rolls over he gets a massive shock as she appears to be auditioning for The Walking Dead. This jolt causes him to plummet out a window. It’s a rather dramatic dive. The Mayor takes it hard. His son Don (also Wasson) returns to help out his troubled dad. The old man however gets worse since he always considered Don the least favorite of the two. Don has a pang of guilt since he had slept with David’s girlfriend. This really makes him less loved by the old man. All four old men keep waking up from nightmares which goes against the sweet wintry New England scenery. Don wants to get in good with his dad by requesting to join the Chowder Society. He does have legacy. But can he tell a ghost story? He has a haunting tale about when he met a mysterious woman named Alma (Alice Krige of Star Trek: First Contact). He liked her, but there was something off about her. After he busts up with her, he discovers she’s engaged to his brother. Turns out the story of Alma hits close to the Chowder Society. They all knew a woman like Alma in the past. Are they all connected?

The film was a rather classy affair with the four older stars that weren’t quite known for horror films. This makes sense since the esteemed actors aren’t there to scare, but deal with the impending frights. The script is based on Peter Straub’s book which at the time had him as popular as Stephen King. Behind the camera lens was Oscar winner Jack Cardiff (Black Narcissus). The editor was the legendary Tom Rolf (The Right Stuff & Clambake). What matter most in a horror film is the special effects and Ghost Story went all out with hiring Rick Baker (American Werewolf in London) and Dick Smith (The Exorcist). They do a fine job on the undead characters. The director was John Irvin who was hot after making Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He’d go on to helm the legendary Next of Kin with Patrick Swayze. It’s odd to see Wasson playing twins since a few years later he’d be part of the identity puzzle of Body Double. Ghost Story still scares up a good story by giving us four familiar faces not known for being in horror films. This is a fine movie to break out as the first flakes of snow accumulates on the grass.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The high definition transfer brings out the cold New England winter. You’ll need two blankets to warm up from the icy water scenes. The audio is is DTS-HD mono. John Houseman’s voice comes through so cleanly. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentary featuring director John Irvin lets him discuss all the legends on the production.

Ghost Story Genesis (39:42) has author Peter Straub discuss the creation of his novel. This feels less like an interview and more of Straub giving an engaging lecture about what it took to write the book. He reads passages from the book.

Ghost Story Development (29:09) covers the struggle of capturing the essence of the novel onto the screen with Producer Burt Weissbourd and screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen.

Alice Krige: Being Alma and Eva (28:51) recounts her dual roles.

Albert Whitlock Special Effects with Bill Taylor (28:48) discusses making a classy horror film click on the screen.

Theatrical Trailer (2:26) promises a scary tale getting told.

TV spots (0:31) is a short scare.

Radio ads (1:00) must have scared people during the evening commute home.

Photo gallery (8:03) is a montage of promotional photos and material.

Ghost Story is a horror film that scares with quality.

Scream Factory presents Ghost Story. Directed by: John Irvin. Screenplay by: Lawrence D.Cohen. Starring: John Houseman, Fred Astaire and Alice Krige. Rated: R. Running Time: 110 minutes. Released: November 24, 2015.

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