Director – John Irvin
Cast – Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., John Houseman, Craig Wasson, Patricia Neal, Alice Krige, Jacqueline Brookes, Miguel Fernandes, Lance Holcomb
Release Year – 1981
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This is a film I had never heard of prior to coming across it, and after doing a little bit of research decided that it was definitely worth a watch. I personally am a huge fan of ghost-oriented horror, and the storyline did enough to interest me and lead me to believe I would leave this experience with a positive feel. Well, in the end I did leave with a positive feel, despite this flick being quite slow-moving and not a devout horror film at times.
Ghost Story follows a group of successful elderly gentlemen who refer to themselves as the “Chowder Society”, which consists of Ricky Hawthorne(Fred Astaire), Dr. John Jaffrey(Melvyn Douglas), Edward Charles Wanderly(Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Sears James(John Houseman). The purpose of the Chowder Society? To tell the most gruesome and frightening ghost stories they can come up with, after a few glasses of fine and the finest spirits of course. When one of Edward Wanderly’s twin sons dies a peculiar death, his twin brother Don Wanderly(Craig Wasson) recalls events that he believes lead to his brother’s death. When he presents these events to the “Chowder Society” they realize that a deep buried secret they have held for 50 years has now come back to haunt them.
Most of us can appreciate a good ghost story, and thankfully this one surprisingly delivers some pretty darn good ghost elements thanks to proper execution. I really loved the idea of a group of older gentlemen being haunted by an event from their past, simply because what we usually get in the horror realm are younger protagonists in their late teens to early twenties being killed off for something they did either in elementary or in high school. So right from the get-go we are presented with a non-cliché element which was only made even more awesome by the fact that these older gentlemen get together merely to tell each other the spookiest ghost stories. How ironic…heh.
The rest of the storyline is enjoyable, especially the fair mystery element behind the heinous act they committed so many years prior. The looks of regret on their faces are real, which I found very fulfilling given the act was not as bad as it seemed at first, but poor judgment led them to carry a secret they had to keep to their graves.
Director John Irvin(Hamburger Hill, The Dogs of War) did a fantastic job with this piece, and provided some genuine kills that I was not expecting to see in such a film. Most of the film, aside from both male and female nudity, is polite and obviously a UK film, but the scares were grotesque and thanks to very good execution…memorable and chilling.
Despite all of my positive feel for this film, it does come with a few flaws. For one, this film goes from well-paced, to slow at a moment’s notice. I mentioned earlier that this is not a devout horror film, and that is because this flick also comes off as a drama as well. We have been given some horror/drama films in the genre such as Lightning Bug, but this film is nothing like that. I really mean it when I say this flick is part horror, and part drama, not a mash-up of both, but a substantial amount of both elements. It is because of this that we get scenes that take overly long to get to the “point”, but scenes that I gave the benefit of the doubt to because this film chooses to blend a heavy amount of drama. Others may not agree with me on this and balk at the idea, but I choose to give the film its due credit for accomplishing what it set out to do, and with admirable results.
Overall, this is an underrated ghost story that provides some great chills thanks to awesome direction, and comes with a storyline that is sure to please those looking for a unique ghost story with some creativity involved. This comes recommended by me for those looking for such a film.