I first heard about Ghost Story not as a movie but as a horror novel reviewed by Stephen King in his book Danse Macabre. The novel was written in 1979 by Peter Straub, who co-wrote The Talisman with King, and praised as being one of the greatest horror novels written in the late 20th century. I have yet to find a copy of the novel but I have watched the film and it is one of my favorite horror films that is more of a thriller and less of a gory slasher flick. I saw Ghost Story late one night on AMC's Fear Friday movie blocks and was hooked for many reasons which I will discuss but first...
What's The Plot?
In the small, New England town of Milburn, four elderly gentlemen have formed a society where they tell each other ghost stories. The Chowder Society as it is called has four members: lawyer Sear James, Doctor John Jafferty, business owner Ricky Hawthorne and Mayor Edward Wanderley. These four men love scary stories but their scariest story is something that happened fifty years ago and it is beginning to come back and haunt them in terrifying nightmares and Edward soon is found dead after falling from the town bridge.
Since recently one of his sons, David, has died in the same manner, Edward's death is seen as a suicide of grief but his friends and his other son, Don, know something else has to be at work. Entrance into the Chowder Society requires a ghostly tale and Don has one of his own that involves the torrid affair he had with a beautiful yet mysterious woman named Alma Mobley. Alma's sometimes coldness toward Don made him push her away and she soon became engaged to his late, twin brother David, who Don now suspects was murdered by Alma.
When Doctor Jafferty has a heart attack, appearing to have died from fright, Sears and Ricky now feel it's time to share their secret with Don. Fifty years ago, the four younger men all met and became smitten with the beautiful Eva Galli who awakened a sexual interest in all of them until one heated night something went wrong and they murdered Eva by accident.
So it appears Alma and Eva are the same person but what is she really? Is she a ghost or something much sinister? Whatever the case maybe, she is back for revenge and only two of her murderers remain alive...but for how much longer? Can Don, Ricky and Sears be rid of Eva before they become part of the most terrifying ghost story of them all...their own?
I don't want to divulge too much of the plot even though it is a little different from the book (Stephen King talked about the novel in Danse Macabre in great length) because the movie should be seen as it is that great a film to watch! This goes back to the things that I enjoy about this film:
1. The musical score is beautiful yet chilling.
2. Dick Smith, who did the make-up for The Exorcist and many other films and TV, did the special make-up for the film involving Eva/Alma's most frightening appearances. If Regan scared you as a demon, that says something about how disturbing you may find Eva/Alma.
3. The list of actors in this film is incredible! Veteran actors Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. made their final screen roles in Ghost Story and they will make you appreciate classic films as their acting is top notch (I always knew Fred Astaire could dance but he can act as well...better than some actors of today I might mention!).
Alice Krige is a wonderful actress who I first discovered in Stephen King's Sleepwalkers and she is both beautiful and disturbing as Alma Mobley and Eva Galli. Another cast member of note is Patricia Neal as Ricky's wife (who I adore from Breakfast At Tiffany's) though her role is small, it wouldn't be fair not to mention such a great actress.
When most horror movies of today are blood, sex and gore, Ghost Story is a classic horror film that doesn't need any of that (even though there is a 1981 version of an explicit sex scene, flashes of Alice Krige's breasts and a scene of brief male frontal nudity for you sex hounds out there!). All you need is great storytelling, fabulous actors and some special effects make-up to add to the atmosphere of great music and photography to make Ghost Story a film only seen to believe in its awesomeness.
Ghost Story Trailer
Next Blog: A break from the horror genre to talk about a film by one of my favorite directors. Whether you have seen it or not...Jerry Maguire