Blu-Ray Review: Ghost Story
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Ghost Story
Director: John Irvin
Screenwriter: Lawrence D. Cohen
Cast: Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., John Houseman, Craig Wasson, Patricia Neal, Alice Krige
Scream Factory
Rated R | 110 Minutes
Release Date: November 24, 2015

“I will take you places you’ve never been. I will show you things that you have never seen and I will see the life run out of you.”

Written by Lawrence D. Cohen (Carrie) and directed by John Irvin (Hamburger Hill), 1981’s Ghost Story is based on the best-selling 1979 novel by author Peter Straub.

In a quiet New England town, four old friends – Ricky Hawthorne (Fred Astaire), Sears James (John Houseman), Dr. John Jaffrey (Melvyn Douglas), and Edward Wanderley (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) – comprise the Chowder Society, a social club dedicated to the telling of ghastly tales.

Scary stories become reality after a bizarre family tragedy. In New York City, Edward’s son, David (Craig Wasson, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors), dies under unusual circumstances. After witnessing his fiancé (Alice Krige) transform into a living, rotting corpse, David plummets to his death from a high-rise window.

Upon hearing of his brother’s death, Don (also played by Wasson) comes home to visit his grieving father. A despondent Edward wanders aimlessly in the snow, following a vision of his dead son. When he sees the same apparition that caused David’s death, Edward falls from a bridge into the icy river below. While his death is ruled a suicide, Don and the remaining members of the Chowder Society believe the deaths are linked to the scariest story of them all: the tale of Eva Galli.

Ghost Story is an atmospheric film with some delightful performances, but fails to deliver sustained scares. While there are moments that are chilling, Irvin’s film isn’t so much a horror film as it is a romantic drama with supernatural elements. There are some impressive practical effects, but there isn’t anything to really sink your teeth into, narratively speaking. Four friends are being pursued by a vengeful spirit after covering up a murder in which they were involved. Basically, it’s I Know What You Did Last Summer in the trappings of a grand old Hollywood production.

Ghost Story was the third highest grossing horror film of 1981 (behind An American Werewolf in London and Halloween II) and the 34th highest grosser of the year. After falling into obscurity, Irvin’s film is finding new life thanks to Scream Factory, Shout Factory’s sub-division of forgotten horror and science-fiction films. As with most Scream Factory releases, this Blu-ray looks great, with solid grain and natural colors that occasionally pop to highlight gruesome details. With a 1080p transfer in 1.85:1 and a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track, this is the best Irvin’s film has ever looked and sounded.

Irvin’s movie is worth checking out for Alice Krige’s unnerving performance alone. For aficionados of obscure ’80s horror, sexually charged supernatural shenanigans, and repulsive practical effects, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of Ghost Story is a tale worth hearing.

Ghost Story is now available at Amazon. A list of bonus features, as well as a trailer and cover art, can be seen below.

Bonus Features

– NEW audio commentary by John Irvin
– NEW interviews with Peter Straub, Alice Krige, and more
– Vintage Theatrical Trailer, TV And Radio Spots
– Photo Gallery


Cover Art

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