Halloween Scene: Ghost Story (1981)

ghost story poster Every year my wife and I watch two classic Christmas movies during the holiday season: Holiday Inn and White Christmas. The former starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire as was the plan for the latter, but Astaire said he was retired at the time, so Danny Kaye got the part. Remembering that got me thinking about Astaire’s career and whether he was actually retired or not. To the IMDb! That’s where I discovered that the song-and-dance man’s last movie actually came in 1981 and was a horror flick! Better yet? Ghost Story also stars Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. John Houseman and Melvyn Douglas. As a kid I inexplicably loved Cocoon, so I think there might be a part of me that enjoys watching old people in genre films. To the top of the Netflix Queue it went!

The four men have been friends in a small New England town for 0ver 50 years going back to when they were young men and decided to call themselves the Chowder Society. Basically, they get together and tell each other ghost stories, which becomes prophetic when one of their sons winds on the wrong side of a massive fall after seeing a girl he slept with turn into a gross monster (a la The Shining).

That leads the dead guy’s brother, David, back home where he meets the remaining members of the Chowder Society, a group whose membership is dwindling thanks to a series of nightmares, hauntings and seemingly accidental deaths. David recounts the story of meeting a woman he fell for and even proposed to but broke it off thanks to her crazy behavior. After telling this tale, the Chowder boys explain that they had a somewhat similar experience with a woman when they were kids that, let’s say, did not end so well and may or may not have lead to them living a very real ghost story.

I don’t want to say too much more about this film because I went in with blinders on and wound up really enjoying the twists and turns of the story. In fact, I was working on something when I started Ghost Story yesterday and got a bit distracted, so I actually went back about a half hour so I could stay with it better. Even after doing that, I’m still not 100% sure of the story and want to watch it again in a few months. I’d also like to check out the novel it was based on by Peter Straub.

Director John Irvin used an excellent mix of traditional haunting movie tricks like disembodied voices and creepy sounds while also employing some truly spectacular death make-up resulting in a creepy film that comes at you from all kinds of angles.

A lot of times on this blog I’ve written something like, “I loved this, but it’s not like it’s a long-lost gem.” That’s not the case with Ghost Story. This is a movie packed with greatness that I’ve never even heard before! Hopefully some of you will check it out because I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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