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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ghost Story

     A movie that has a great cast and a great story is 1982's GHOST STORY based on the spellbindingly scary novel by Peter Straub. Both the movie and the book share a central story- four elderly men who make up a weekly gathering called the Chowder Society (Fred Astaire. Melvyn Douglas. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and John Houseman) who sit around swilling cognac and spinning scary stories- share a horrible secret from their past that comes back to haunt them, literally. There are minor problems with the film, but I think overall it's a well-made production that was quite scary seeing it for the first time.

      Each of these men are haunted by a entity who bears a resemblance to a young woman who was accidentally killed 50 years prior. Alice Krige plays the ghost, and she does a remarkable job. So remarkable, in fact, that I can't imagine anybody else in the role. She is truly evil- with a simple stare and a slight, crooked smile, she gave me nightmares for weeks after stumbling upon this movie on HBO late one night. She's fantastic as Eva/Alma.

      But, there's something missing from the movie. Peter Straub wrote a very original, very unsettling book that gets better with each reading. Something was lost in the translation to film though- GHOST STORY actually should have been stretched out to the length of, say THE SHINING to perfectly capture the essence of Straub's terrifying story. It just seems like they overlooked major plot elements that are essential to the mystery. I wouldn't say it's a bad movie, just one that doesn't live up to it's true potential.  It could have been great.  Even with Craig Wasson!

     Still, there are some great, scary moments in GHOST STORY, and it has a tremendous amount of atmosphere and old-fashioned charm. It's a classy affair, but I only wish the full essence of the book could have been shown on the big screen. That would have been  truly scary. As for the book on which it was based, it's one of the greatest, scariest, books ever written. Peter Straub is a fantastic writer, and GHOST STORY is his crowning achievement.  It's the kind of book that will have you turning lights on late at night because you can't stop reading it but find yourself jumping at every little noise.  A masterpiece of modern horror!

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