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Ghost Story (Blu-ray Review)

Ghost-StoryThe time has come to tell the tale. Scream Factory proudly presents the Blu-ray debut ofGhost Story on November 24, 2015. Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Peter Straub, Ghost Story features four of Hollywood’s most distinguished statesmen – Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and John Houseman – as they join forces against a paranormal nemesis.  Craig Wasson, Patricia Neal, and Alice Krige also star in this chilling and atmospheric telling of one of horror’s greatest stories.  Exclusive new bonus materials include new interviews with Author Peter Straub,  Actress Alice Krige, Screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen, Producer Burt Weissbourd and Matte Photographer Bill Taylor.  Also present is a commentary with the film’s director, John Irvin.

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Ghost Story 1

Film 

In a peaceful New England town, the four lifelong friends who make up the Chowder Society come together each week to regale each other with tales of terror. But when one of the elderly gentlemen experiences a family tragedy, it becomes apparent that a buried secret from their youth has arisen to remind them of the sins of their past. Soon, they will learn they have never been forgiven… and a supernatural vengeance awaits them all.

I’m not at all familiar with the book this film is based on, so pardon my not referencing the source text at all.  Though I wonder if there is still a strong audience that has read it and not seen this.  From my research and watching the bonus materials, it appears this adaptation was at a point of controversy with critics as it seemed to simplify this story too much.  So, I can’t tell you one way or another.  What I can tell you is that this is a very good little haunt I’d never seen before.

The film features some fantastic make-up and gore effects (And one really dated rear projection effect) that only enhance and compliment the already terrifically direct suspense and scare sequences.  There’s a real classic sense of horror natural fit into a (then) modern tale.  It does help that you have a cast full of old Hollywood types like Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Fred Astaire leading the way with an up and coming Craig Wasson to “youth it up” for the film.

Where Ghost Story fails is in its structure.  The story is meant to be about telling tales and the film heavily leans on two flashback sequences in the film.  Both flashback sequences happen right when you feel the story is on the verge of something.  And the bad part is that these flashbacks are long.  Its a while before you get back and you almost forget where things were going before you left for the flashback.  These sequences could easily have been reduced.  I wasn’t keeping a running timer on them, so if they’re actually short, they didn’t feel like it.  While tedious, they do add some wonderful depth, conflict and reveals.

I’m not sure nowadays the way the story is told and the kind of ghost tale this is feels any kind of novel.  Anything from Stir of Echoes to The Ring have had this sort of thing.  Back in 1980, this might have felt a little more unique.  I was fine with it, but I was thinking for more modern audiences that may not be able to find the appreciation in that aspect.  The film is rock solid though, and really features some terrific conflict, as well as being strong in its story and horror elements.

Ghost Story 3

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  This one carries a very cinematic presentation appearing to hold true to its roots here.  Detail runs quite well as gory effects and make-up look pristine and have a texture that give you an idea of what it would feel like to the touch.  There’s a bit of softness that’s inherent in the cinematography, but its otherwise as crisp and sharp as it could probably be without looking tampered with.  

Depth:  People and objects look free of their environments and move naturally through them.  Background detail is as good as the focus will allow.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich and can carry more grain in shadowy, less lit areas or night sequences.  No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  There aren’t any real bold or colors that would pop in this more natural looking palette.  Snow looks very good here and the color of the monsters/corpses/whathaveyou all come on strong.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and hold consistency through the duration of the film.  Facial details like wrinkles, stubble, lip texture and make-up look terrific here in medium and close-ups.  As mentioned before, the make-up on creatures/corpses/remains all are very impressive.

Noise/Artifacts:  There are specs throughout to go with nice layer of grain.

Ghost Story 2

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  This original mono track sounds very lovely in this lossless mix.  Effects, vocals and music are well balanced and free of one another.  Sounds are well layered and carry a good range.  

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is pretty crisp, plenty loud and very clear throughout.  

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Extras 

Ghost Story comes with reversible cover art featuring an alternate poster design.

Audio Commentary

  • By Director John C Irvin

Ghost Story Genesis (HD, 39:42) – A lengthy sit down with the author of the book the film was based on.  He reads from his book, discussing its importance and also reflects on its relation to the film.

Ghost Story Development (HD, 29:09) – The producer and screenwriter give a grand couple of interviews on the production and adaptation of the source text.

Alice Krige: Being Alma and Eva (HD, 28:52) – A very good interview segment with the actress regarding her sort of dual role in the film.

Albert Whitlock Visual Effects with Bill Taylor (HD, 28:51) – Another lengthy interview, this time regarding the special effects.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:26)

TV Spot (HD, :31)

Radio Spots (HD, 1:00) 

Photo Gallery (HD, 8:03)

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Summary 

Ghost Story proves to be horror tale that goes beyond the confines of the genre to be an engaging drama and character story beyond the whole ghostly boos and make-up effects.  It all works, but some of the flashbacks run a bit too long and it feels we jump off track a bit much.  Aside from that, this is a clear winner regardless.  Also a winner is the presentation and full on package here in this release.  The film look and sounds terrific.  Bonus features have really lengthy, rich, informative new interviews with plenty of insight and educational information on the film.  This is a must add to your collection.

Ghost-Story-Blu-ray

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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