Tackling the 500 page horror tale penned by Peter Straub was going to be no easy task, as the author took a page from Stephen King by deciding to paint his story on a large canvas, telling multiple storylines that would interweave with the main plot, but when adapting such a story to film a certain amount of things will have to be cut. Even Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot had to discard much of King’s 400 page opus and he had three hours to work with, but director John Irvin had no such luxury with Ghost Story. Screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen had the daunting task of jettisoning about 90% of the book's tapestry of characters and plot threads thus leaving behind only a simple story of revenge.
Albeit a ghostly revenge from beyond the grave.The movie centers around four men, the book had five but one of them didn’t make the cut to the big screen, that live in a small New England town, who all have been harboring a dark secret for over fifty years, a secret that has now come back to bite them in the ass. Ricky Hawthorne (Fred Astaire), Sears James (John Houseman), Dr. John Jaffrey (Melvyn Douglas), and Mayor Edward Charles Wanderley (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) make up a small club they call the Chowder Society, an informal men’s club where they regale each other with scary stories, but now they are all suffering nightmares that seem to be a harbinger of terrible things to come. That the movie opens with John Houseman telling a tale of terror is a bit of an odd choice, not because Houseman is a terrible storyteller as his voice is perfect for spooky tales, but the problem is that just one year earlier John Carpenter’s The Fog opened with Houseman telling a spooky campfire tale, and so for a brief moment I was confused as to what movie I’d put in my Bluray player.
“Beware of leper ghosts and gold doubloons.”Meanwhile in New York City Edward's son David (Craig Wasson) seems very concerned with the naked woman in his bed. Sadly something that rarely concerns me. The tub in the bathroom is overflowing while David keeps asking this woman, who is lying face down in his bed, “Who are you?” Later we learn this woman was his fiancée so his question is more metaphorical in nature and not due to a guy bringing a woman home without bothering to get a name. Though he’d have been better off with a one night stand for when he places his hand on her naked flesh he is shocked at how cold it is, and then she turns over and her face is finally revealed.
I guess their relationship wasn’t based on looks.David reels back in terror, crashing through his high-rise window, and falling to his death far below. This leads to Edward calling his other son Don (Craig Wasson), who just so happens to be David’s identical twin thus being played by the same actor, and he tells the boy he must come home for the funeral. Don insists to his father that David’s death was not an accident and being the death involved his brother practically flying through a glass window I’d say most forensic officials would want to do a little investigation on this as well, but not in this movie because we don’t have time for cops and we’ve got ghosts to bust. The father and son seem to be at odds but they aren’t given any time to build bridges before Edward is lured down the street by a spectral figure, and as he crosses a bridge Edward is startled by the ghost. In terror he falls backwards off the bridge.
“Boo!”So that’s her entire bag of tricks, just scare the crap out of her victims and hope they die from it? It may seem a trifle lame but you can’t knock its effectiveness, and despite Ricky, Jaffrey and young Don all believing something supernatural is going on good ole Sears refuses to discuss the situation. Don joins the Chowder Society by telling a ghost story of his own, this one involving a woman by the name of Alma Mobley (Alice Krige) who was a secretary at the school Don taught at. The two had a hot and passionate affair but when things got a bit weird, like Alma demanding to be married in Don’s hometown with all family and friends watching, which was pretty much a deal breaker for Don. Then one night Don wakes to find Alma standing naked in the living, staring out at the ocean, and without turning around she states, “I will take you places you've never been. I will show you things that you have never seen, and I will see the life run out of you.”
She may be hot but that kind of crazy you don’t need in your life.That relationship totally messed up Don’s life, after breaking up with her and her subsequent disappearance his life spiraled in a downward direction, but things took an even darker turn when he got a call from his twin telling him that he was going to marry Alma. Seems like she was really hell-bent on marrying into that family. Yet scaring David out of the window didn’t seem like a good way to seal the whole marriage deal, and I thought that was the point of her whole goddamn plan. Maybe David was just too big of a douche, and as the guy was marrying his brother’s ex that's some pretty damning evidence of his douchery, so she decided to just kill him instead and then head on to New England to continue her vengeance fueld killing spree. Why she didn’t just do that in the first place is never made clear.
Weirder still is that Ricky comes across two psychos living in an old abandoned house, one an escaped lunatic by the name of Gregory Bate (Miguel Fernandes) the other being pint sized Fenny Bate (Lance Holcomb), and they seem to be working for the ghost.