Sometimes a film’s title says it all and this is most definitely the case with the 1981 horror Ghost Story adapted from the 1979 Peter Straub novel of the same name both of which tell a multifaceted tale of a small town full of secrets and lies and one very angry spirit who has been waiting decades to reap there revenge.
Set in the tiny fictional hamlet of Milburn New England, Ghost Story fittingly opens with the telling of a ghost story recounted by a member of the Chowder Society a group of lifelong friends all now moving towards the end of their years but still obsessed with telling each other fearful tales of death, doom and supernatural dread.
It seems however some of the strange spooky stories they are telling each other may be turning into reality as one of the foursome finds out his son has been killed in a terrible and suspiciously unexplainable accident.
The funeral brings the dead brothers sibling Don (Craig Wasson) back to town after a period away having fallen out with his father but when he two mysteriously commits suicide Don is convinced there is more to these events than mere chaotic coincidence.
Determined to get to the bottom of things he confronts the remaining associates of the Chowder Society to uncover their secrets bargaining his way in by telling them a ghost story of his own which it transpires has much more to do with recent events than he ever imagined.
Described by Stephen King in his non-fiction review of the horror medium Danse Macabre as one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century Peter Straub’s book gained him much popularity and acclaim and became a bestseller when it was first published.
It was obvious a cinematic adaptation would follow at the time however the film is far better than a simple cash in on a popular work of fiction mainly due to its excellent cast and the intricate script penned by Carrie and It screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen which jumps about telling stories within stories much like the Chowder Society themselves while keeping a good balance between the supernatural and real elements which are surprisingly just as sinister.
Centering the story on the genial geriatric characters makes it all the more interesting and the four famous faces who make up the old aged alumni from Hollywood’s golden era Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, John Houseman and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. prove why they were such screen icons each giving amazing performances which where sadly the last ever screen roles for all but Houseman.
Full of good old fashioned frights and well shot by Raw Deal director John Irvin Ghost Story is a great addition to any horror fans catalogue of creepy chillers guaranteed to give you a shiver late at night next time your sharing scary stories.