Ghost Story (1981) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Ghost Story was originally a best-selling horror novel by Stephen King's friend and sometime collaborator, Peter Straub. I read it. Pretty spooky stuff which centered on a race of shape-shifters who live among us. It is quite Lovecraftian in its use of isolated New England settings as the battleground for the war between us, johnny-come-lately human beings, and them, an older race embodying what would be unspeakable blasphemies in terms of our Christian mythos. Most frightening of all, they represent an eternal evil which cannot be completely eradicated.

For reasons which I cannot fathom, Universal paid to acquire the rights to Straub's terrifying novel, then ignored it. The book and the film have little in common except a title and some character names.

So what is the film about?


Craig Wasson did full-frontal and rear nudity.

Alice Krige shows breasts and buns

Well sir, it seems that a bunch of old codgers in New England have a terrible secret. Fifty years ago, in a moment of drunken bickering, they accidentally killed a mysterious foreign woman whom they were all sweet on. Panicking, they disposed of her body by stuffing her into her car and pushing the car to the bottom of a pond. There was no reason for them to panic, because the other locals quickly lost interest in the woman's disappearance. She, however, did not take death lying down. Her corpse may have been in that waterlogged car, but her spirit continued to roam the earth. In ghastly form, she continued to haunt the old geezers and their offspring.

Well, to tell you the truth, the one guy's son was only there for plot exposition. Throughout the film, he continues to ask the old guys if they know something about this women, and they gradually spin their "Ghost Story." In order to reveal the mystery at the appropriate pace, time switches back and forth between the events surrounding her death and the present day.

Blah, blah, yadda, yadda.

It's basically a scareless movie with a facile and too-sudden resolution which will leave you thinking. "That's it? That's all they had to do to defeat her? Meh." Instead of winning a temporary respite from timeless shape-shifting evil, they defeated her soundly by simply opening a car door and exposing her corpse to the light. That's it. End of movie. She is done in by the dreaded, feared, open car door.

DVD info from Amazon

  • excellent widescreen anamorphic transfer, but no features

The best part of the movie, at least as far as I was concerned, was the exquisite elegance of the woman, as played by the Borg Queen herself, Alice Krige, as the epitome of cold, sexy beauty, sort of a South African version of Catherine Deneuve.

The film does have an interesting cast. The four doddering old windbags are played by Melvyn Douglas, Fred Astaire, Doug Fairbanks, and John Houseman, so you'll get a chance to see how some of the great screen figures aged. This was Douglas's last movie.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • The domestic box office was a respectable $23 million.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. Watchable, but lukewarm and totally edgeless, and only vaguely related to the best-selling novel.

Return to the Movie House home page