They don’t make them like Ghost Story anymore. This 1981 horror from director John Irvin has a cast of Hollywood greats (Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and John Houseman) playing an elderly gentlemen’s group haunted by a deep dark secret. This might not be the scariest horror film ever made but it’s a classy movie with good performances and fantastic cinematography courtesy of the great Jack Cardiff.
Based on Peter Straub’s 1979 novel of the same name, Ghost Story has the feel of a Stephen King tale. That’s no surprise giving its Maine setting – and the fact that Straub was inspired by King’s masterwork, Salem’s Lot (King would later go on to praise the novel). Lawrence D. Cohen’s screenplay may be slighter than Straub’s rich novel, but director John Irvin has turned it into a slow burning horror that reeks of class and atmosphere.
Wrapped in flashbacks and assorted time periods, Ghost Story is a horror for the older generation and it has more in common with films like The Changeling and The Shining than the slasher films which were dominating the horror scene in the 1980s. It’s great to see actors like Fred Astaire taking the lead here, leaving the young ones (Craig Wasson and Alice Krige) to take on supporting roles. It boggles the mind to think that these actors’ careers stretch back to the early 1930s.
Ghost Story might be light on scares by today’s standards but it has enough intrigue and moments of interest to make it worth the time for horror fans. When you couple that with the top notch cast, then Ghost Story becomes a must see for all movie fans.