Thursday 26 November 2015

Ghost Story (1981)

John Irvin’s bit-of-a-misfire-really-all-things-considered film version of Peter Straub’s bestselling horror novel finally comes to Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Second Sight, with a host of extras that are going to make this disc well worth buying if you’re a fan of the film.

In the sleepy, snowy town of Milburn the elderly, and outwardly respectable, members of The Chowder Society are dying, and whatever may be causing their ‘accidents’ may have it in for their family members as well. David Wanderly (Craig Wasson with moustache), son of Edward (Douglas Fairbanks Jr) falls to his death from his apartment and his willy waves farewell to our expectations of this going to be any good. Anyone familiar with this film will have been wondering if and when I was going to mention this so now I have. Of course, it may pop up again later so don’t relax just yet. 

Not so nice
David’s brother Don (Wasson sans moustache) arrives in town to discover he is already involved in the Chowder Society’s Dark Secret as he recounts to the remaining members his relationship with the mysterious Alma Mobley (Alice Krige) who may be the reincarnation of the vengeful spirit that is determined to do them all in.

Trapped in a film that's just not that great
Peter Straub’s 1979 novel on which GHOST STORY was based is just marvellous - a true classic of modern American horror. John Irvin’s film is not. There are lots of things wrong with it, and it was an ambitious task to film such a mammoth, complex and pretty unfilmable novel anyway, and despite a talented cast (who mostly seem rather at sea in this) and some superb Dick Smith makeup effects the whole thing falls flat. Sorry GHOST STORY but I’ve watched you at least three times since 1981, and despite trying hard to like you I find you lacklustre, insipid and uninspired. 

These could have been Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and John Carradine.
Part of the problem is that there are too many distractions that remind us of better films - John Houseman kicks the film off by telling a story as if he’s still in the (far superior) THE FOG, the haunted house on the hill looks like the shrunken, listless brother of the one from PSYCHO, the bits that should be scary, shocking and atmospheric have you talking about films where such moments actually were. Phillipe Sarde’s music score is great, but it’s for a completely different film, one with a lot more gothic get up and go than this one. Sometimes it doesn’t even fit the scenes it’s accompanying. 

Think about it
Don’t get me wrong - GHOST STORY is well made and looks lovely, but it plays out more like a horror film for people who don’t actually like horror films - the kind of thing you’re pretty much safe showing to your granny or your maiden aunt on a Sunday evening (just distract her during the willy dance of death bit. I know I know, I just couldn’t resist mentioning it again.)
Second Sight’s Blu-ray and DVD releases come with plenty of extras. There’s a feature length commentary with director John Irvin, and lengthy interviews (around a half an hour apiece) with author Straub (which is great, by the way), star Alice Krige (also excellent), screenwriter Laurence D Cohen and producer Burt Weissbourd, and a piece on Albert Whitlock’s visual effects. You also get a trailer, TV and radio spots and an image gallery.

Second Sight are releasing GHOST STORY on Region B Blu-ray and Region 2 DVD (as separate discs) on 7th December 2015

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