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Film: Ghost Story (1981), based on the novel by Peter Straub

Director: John Irvin

Starring: Fred Astaire, Alice Krige

Genre: Gothic, ghost, revenge, the book was better?


Why You Should Watch It:


Confession: I have never actually read Peter Straub’s “Ghost Story.” I grew up watching the film so many times that I thought I knew the story. Turns out I was very, very wrong.


Loosely based on the Peter Straub novel of the same name, Ghost Story follows a group of old white dudes and a pissed off ghost who comes back to get all their asses. Well, there’s more to it than that. This group of old dudes call themselves the Chowder Society, and for funsies they all like to get together to drink scotch by the fire and tell spooky stories, kind of like The Midnight Society, but not as cool. They’re all successful businessmen in their very chilly northern town; one of the men is a doctor and another is a politician and I forget what the other dudes do. However, they all share the same horrible secret about something that happened one night surrounding a mysterious, irresistible woman named Eva.


When the son of one of the members of the Chowder Society unalives himself (in what was the first full-frontal nudity scene I ever saw!) The other son, now working as a professor in Florida, isn’t convinced that the brother killed himself and knows that something is fishy. Why you ask? Because he and his brother were boning the same lady named Alma! She was creepy! Her skin was cold to the touch! But they couldn’t help themselves! Turns out Eva is back for revenge in the form of Alma and she won’t be stopped until the truth about what happened to her comes to the surface.


Now this film was made in 1981 and the way it was shot and directed feels very much from that era. Fred Astaire is a big surprise actor in this film, especially since he doesn’t even have any dance numbers. This is a great movie to watch in the dead of winter because there are so many frigid, snowy scenes that even down here in Florida I felt a chill. More chilling though is the performance of Alice Krige (whom you may recognize as the witch from Gretel and Hansel) and her portrayal of Eva/Alma. She’s one cold-ass ghost and I still get goosebumps when I hear her say “dance with me you little toad!” Oof.


As far as ghost revenge stories go, Ghost Story is still solid and holds up to the test of time, with only one minor critique and that is the soundtrack. At times when the frantic bells/chimes/violin are playing it's meant to set the tone and add suspense but I only find it grating. I don’t often propose remakes of films/stories, especially when they are based off of books because there are so many other stories out there waiting to be told. But since this film is only loosely based on the novel (which from what I’ve gleaned is wildly different) it would be cool to see Ghost Story picked up and serialized by Flanagan or the like.


Anyway, if you’ve never seen Ghost Story and are looking for a good old-fashion creepy ghost tale of sex, revenge and full-frontal male nudity, be sure to check it out!

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