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Ghost Story

Craig Wasson , Alice Krige , John Irvin    DVD
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Upon its release in 1981, John Irvin's version of Peter Straub's bestselling horror novel was deemed one of the worst adaptations that the genre had ever produced. Now it's available on DVD, and for the first time in widescreen presentation, and not much has changed. It's still a nearly unwatchable dud. Fred Astaire, John Houseman, Melvyn Douglas, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. play old friends, members of the self-created Chowder Society, who get together and tell ghost tales. The scariest story of all, however, is the one they never speak to each other. Fifty years ago, the four men accidentally killed a young woman, and now she's back (with much less meat on her bones) and seeking vengeance. Sound chilling? Well, in Straub's hands it was, and the novel remains the author's finest achievement. Irvin, however, distills Staub's rich characterizations, gradual tension, and creepy atmosphere, and replaces them with aging golden oldies (only Houseman appears to be having any fun) hamming it up and hokey special-effect shots of a rotting corpse. The film moves about as quickly as its ancient cast could during a relay race. The whole thing has arthritis. --Dave McCoy

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Most helpful customer reviews
By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
It's been at least fifteen years since I read Peter Straub's Ghost Story, and I must admit I've forgotten almost everything about the actual story. What I do remember is my conviction that Straub's novel was truly a masterpiece of the horror genre. Straub is a complete writer, not some penny dreadful hack, and that almost guarantees that no film can possibly do any of his writings justice. Movies revolve around characters and actions, and Straub's fiction really plays on a much higher level. Frankly, I'm surprised that anyone would even attempt to adapt Straub for the big screen. Robbed of its atmospheric build-up, Ghost Story (the film) proves quite incapable of immersing you in the dark shadows haunting the Chowder Club Society meetings. Unable to take on a life of its own onscreen, Ghost Story feels to me like an old made-for-TV movie.

The four elderly, distinguished gentlemen who make up the The Chowder Society have been trading ghost tales and scary stories for decades. For fifty years, however, not a one of them has ever even thought about mentioning the most disturbing story of all, one that they all secretly share. Eva was her name, a saucy little newcomer who had all four of their college-age hearts pitter-pattering as they stumbled over one another pitching woo in her general direction. It's weird enough for four best friends to all be wooing the same girl at the same time, but the director manages to make it even stranger and more confusing. Two of the guys constantly giggle like schoolgirls, none of them seem to have a clue about the essential nature of man-woman communications, and they all combine to make one of the film's most climactic scenes little more than pedestrian in terms of their emotional reactions.
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3.0 out of 5 stars SENIOR SCARES June 6 2004
When I first saw GHOST STORY on its initial release, I found it to be an entertaining, if not faithful, adaptation of Peter Straub's frightening novel. Now, some 20 years later, I found the movie less entertaining. The main problem I think is the enigmatic nature of the ghost, Eva Galli or Alma Mosely. Was she evil or supernatural prior to her death? And why doesn't she kill Donald as she did his brother? Was she really alive when she went down in the car? And what in the world do the Bates have to do with anything? And the classic "I am You" line is powerless without an explanation.
John Irvin's direction is also lackluster and sober. Of all the classic actors involved, none of them showed the power they have possessed in other roles. Although a talented actor, Craig Wasson was woefully miscast. Only Alice Krige as the ghostly Alma and Jacqueline Brookes as Astaire's wife bring any luster or poignancy to the film.
It's not a bad film by any means, and it does have some frightening moments with a wonderful score by Phillipe Sarde. I wish someone would remake it, however, and bring out more of the wonderful scariness of the novel.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Lame chiller March 13 2003
Format:VHS Tape
In "Ghost Story", the old men who make up the "Chowder Society" bide their fading years in a freezing and apparently unending northeastern winter telling each other ghost stories. Then they start dying very unnatural deaths. We learn that the group - a close-knit old boy's club going back decades - has been living a sort of ghost story of their own, one that's supposed to exceed anything they've told each other. When the son of one of the old men dies under similarly mysterious circumstances, his twin brother returns to home to investigate. It seems that there's some link between a mystery woman both of the sons dated, and a strikingly similar woman who disappeared many years before when...
Oh, what's the use. This flick hasn't any surprises. Both Alma, the beautiful woman years earlier desired and destroyed by our aged anti-heroes, and the mystery woman loved by both sons, are one and the same. Alma (a very pre-assimilated-by-the-Borg Alice Krige), we learn, came to the home-town of the Chowders in a by-gone age, when life was good, the weather was warm and the old men were young enough to be played by Ken Olin. Sought, loved and seemingly shared by each of the men, Alma is killed in an outrageous fluke. The "Chowders" of course, being gentlemen, cannot consider answering for their admittedly unwitting homicide, and cover up their tracks. Sealing the secret with a vow of silence, they set themselves up for Alma's horrific vengeance from beyond the grave. Years later, when they are old enough to be played by John Houseman, Alma returns.
This flick was a major disappointment - even before I knew who Alice Krige was. When we first meet them, the Chowders are basically non-characters - already ghosts themselves.
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1.0 out of 5 stars A Travesty.... Sept. 14 2002
Format:VHS Tape
Knowing that "the movie is never as good as the book" doesn't help this horrific mess of a film. That being said, I saw the film when it came out 20 years ago, and it was bad then. Now, after having just put down the book, I would revise that rating down another notch to "atrocious."
I won't go on and on, but I do have a question: why bother basing a film on a book and utilizing almost none of the characterizations, plot nuances or, most importantly, sense of pervasive dread inherent in the novel and so completely necessary to films in this genre?
The book I literally could not put down, all the superlatives apply: engrossing, frightening, thought-provoking, evocative and suspenseful. The film unfortunately seems to have been written by someone who lifted the names and locations from the novel, while leaving out almost everything else.
A dream cast completely wasted (John Houseman, Melvyn Douglas, Fred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). Employing one of the worst actors in the business (Craig Wasson) to play the lead--not to mention opening the film with a mind-numbingly gratuitous shot of him plunging nude from a window--ugghhh, didn't need to see that AT ALL (not that there was much to see, ahem).
It all adds up to disaster and, worse, boredom. This film is a travesty in every sense of the word and an insult to Peter Straub--he should have sued.
This begs to be remade--only PLEASE this time do it right.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Cast. Interesting Concept. Low on Chills
Several elderly gentleman are tormented by the ghost of a beautiful woman who is also in hot pursuit of one of the men's sons. Read more
Published 7 months ago by E. Valero
5.0 out of 5 stars Great scary movie
I remember going to the show and seeing this movie. I liked it. I thought it was a good movie.
Published 12 months ago by DeGraaf
2.0 out of 5 stars Novel: Excellent, Film: Not!
First, let me say that Straub's novel is one of the finest ghost stories ever written. It's terrifying, too, as good ghost stories should be. Read more
Published on July 2 2004 by Cherry Red's
5.0 out of 5 stars Guaranteed To Keep You Awake Late Into The Night ... ...
Universal plans to re-release Ghost Story on September 7, 2004
just in time for Halloween. Most likely this re-release won't have any extras, although we can always hope. Read more
Published on April 26 2004 by Jack Burgess
1.0 out of 5 stars No - No - No - No - No
This is the way you film a very poor adaptation of a well writen and very scary novel.
Here's the problem: Only a very small piece of the storyline from the book made it to... Read more
Published on April 17 2004 by VonLang
2.0 out of 5 stars Best Sex Scene Ever!!!
I haven't seen this movie since it appeared on HBO in the Fall of 1982 but I have fond memories of it. Read more
Published on Jan. 31 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Ghost Story
This is an excellent horror. I've been looking for it for years. More of a good old fashioned horror. I had to own it, there's suspense and the story line is intense.
Published on Sept. 1 2003 by kristine f peart
2.0 out of 5 stars Moldy sheets are more frightening.
The Peter Straub novel upon which this movie is based is one of the best and scariest ghost stories ever written. Read more
Published on May 1 2003 by Cody
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrifying
I've read mixed reviews of this horror filck, but I for one, was absolutely terrified. As a huge horror fan, I can safely say that there has really been only one other movie that... Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2003 by Nick
5.0 out of 5 stars super dopper
This movie is very good to look at on a cold rainy night, but not by yourself. When I first saw this movie I always remembered the name and I know that I would some day get this... Read more
Published on Nov. 18 2002 by Jonina Rogers
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