Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ghost Story: Submitted For the Approval of the Chowder Society...

Ghost Story is a strange bird. I don't hate it, but I don't love it....but I don't like it either. Maybe the correct word is...I am acquainted with it. No, no that sounds mean. Perhaps what I mean to say is that I enjoyed its company, but I'm not sure if I will be inviting it back within the next year. Still though, terrific dead person effects Ghost Story, hear hear!

If you don't know anything about Ghost Story, I think it best to begin with The Chowder Society. The Chowder Society happens to be exactly like The Midnight Society in Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Only it just contains old men that wear fancy suits, who drink brandy and tell stories in front of cozy fires in the fireplace.

Also, Fred Astaire is there except he's really old.

Membership and club meetings proceed the same however--spooky stories are told! So anyways, The Chowder Society holds a deep dark secret and this deep dark secret involves a ghost that is taking its revenge. When Chowder Society member Edward's son dies a mysterious death, the men soon realize that their past may not be as deeply buried as they thought. It's up to Edward's OTHER son to convince them that its time to fess up. But will they fess up too late?

I think Ghost Story has the misfortune of not being spooky enough. When I think of the term "ghost story" I think spooky. Here though, the spookiness is spaced much too far apart. Plus, the spookiness doesn't seem to be taken as far as it should go. That isn't to say however that there aren't thrills. In fact, the thrills seem to outweigh the spookiness as far as I'm concerned. What's the difference you ask? A thrill to me is more like a jump. While spookiness is something that worms its way slowly in and sticks around like the faint smell of burning leaves. Beautiful I know. In any case, Ghost Story is oddly fond of its thrills.

These thrills come in the form of a nasty, drowned, pruney skinned face woman--and boy is she hideous.

The first time it happens you get angry for being tricked. The second time it happens you laugh and pretend that you saw it coming. The third time? The fourth time? You've smash your hand into the wall and scream FOILED AGAIN! It's very surprising and almost seems to be a little advanced for the kind of tone that is displayed in this. Maybe I'm just being old man racist there, but I kind of felt like Ghost Story would be the kind of movie to take its time you know?

There also happens to be a lot of weird confusion happening. Certain scenes develop that don't feel like they are being properly introduced. A good example is the death of Edward's son in the beginning. I wish that had been set up better because the whole time I was confused and bothered. Who is this man? Why is he asking a random naked woman who she is? How did this random naked woman get in his bed? Why is the tub overflowing? It was all very strange. Of course looking back now, it does all make sense and perhaps that was indeed the point and all. Still though, there had to have been a better way to set that up, no? Wait a minute....what am I complaining about? That scene ended in the best way possible: naked free fall!

I tell you, I did not expect to see the penis but there it was.

I do admit to liking the camaraderie between the old men, and the flashback sequence gratifying their youth was pretty enlightening.

Which brings me to another point. Those flashbacks! I understand their necessity what with the whole principle of the ghost and why she is seeking revenge being so important. But for some reason, these flashbacks seemed to have been able to exist as movies on their own! I wonder how the movie would have been had the flashbacks been dispersed in a somewhat even way? As it stands, the film feels very "scheduled". Like there's all these specific time blocks, "this is where the flashback happens" and so on and so on, and because of this, the film feels stunted.

Ghost Story is also one of those movies where the clues to why the ghost is getting revenge are very hidden. It's almost as if we could never have possibly guessed what the situation was until we see the final (and very long) flashback. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but it still leaves me feeling like something unfair was committed against me. Could it be perhaps that the story in Ghost Story is not dealt out evenly enough? There was too much back and forth. The son's flashback, the Chowder Society's flashback and then all of the random things in between.

Hmmph. I know it seems like I didn't like this very much but I did at least enjoy most of it.
It kept my attention, which in this day and age is deserving of 5 stars all on its own. I guess I just expected more ghosting. More ghosting and less things that don't make any sense at all. Like the side plot of that crazy goon guy and his weird, childlike friend that wears high heels and is dirty.

By the way, did I miss something there?

Sure, Ghost Story has its moments, and the final reveal of why Eva died in the first place is pretty traumatizing but what about the spooks? Overall Eva just felt too much like a real person throughout. In fact, I wasn't even convinced that she WAS a ghost. I came extremely close to deducing that Eva had somehow survived the accident, found a witch doctor and/or drank from the fountain of youth and now lived perpetually in life as a hot 20 something woman. It totally makes sense.

Except for the fact that she is dead.

Anywho, Ghost Story has its charms but I guess it just didn't charm me....


Chris Hewson said...

Now this is bringing back memories. I saw Ghost Story way back when I was a kid, and I actually thought that Dick van Dyke was the old man lead. Although, for anyone who's ever watched a certain episode of Diagnosis: Murder, they would know that if van Dyke had appeared in Ghost Story, it wouldn't be the creepiest thing he ever appeared in. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just imagine an all Eddie Murphy cast and van Dyke playing a woman who's supposedly soliciting a young Spanish gigolo-YIKES!! TV is freakin' weird!!!

Spooky Sean said...

Good use of the word spooky. I approve. Oh yeah, did you know that the old man actor who we first hear reading in Ghost Story, we also first hear reading at the beginning of John Carpenter's The Fog? Yup, same guy, and a very similar beginning to each.

Christine Hadden said...

So you may or may not know Ghost Story is one of my favorite films. I have no idea why. Sometimes it is so disjointed, and many times (like in the case of the random bum and that little kid showing up) it is just confusing. Many, MANY people hate it and trash it at every turn.
But I freaking love it.

I read the book (superior in nearly every way) when I was like, 15 and pronounced it my favorite book ever, which surprisingly still stands. So maybe I was just so overwhelmingly excited to see the film that it just couldn't be bad for me...?

What I like best are the scenes of 'spookiness' that we actually DO get, in particular when Eva is standing in the middle of a snowy road, behind a bush, or drowning in the back seat of that car. At the end when she's coming down the steps in her wedding dress gave me a chill or two as well, because that part of the book had me nearly wetting the bed.

I definitely agree that the flashbacks became tedious, and I wanted to simply kill Ken Olin and that other twirp with the ridiculous laugh! Arrrggh!

And last but not least...the penis. I mean, full frontal male is a rare thing in horror films - or any film, really. Not that it was a particularly striking penis, but nonetheless...

The Mike said...

I also did not expect to see the penis.

I haven't watched this one in years, but I keep wanting to because Christine keeps bringing it up, and everytime she does I'm like "I think that was a good one, wasn't it?"

So yeah, I got nothing. But I remember the creepy dead people...and the unexpected penis.

Michele (TheGirlWhoLovesHorror) said...

You COPYCAT. I was totally working on something for this movie too. But I had the exact same thoughts about the movie - I liked it okay, but wasn't crazy about it. The naked free fall was cool but there wasn't enough spooky stuff for a movie called "Ghost Story." Just one watery, rotty face and not a single jump moment.

Anonymous said...

Read Straub's (convoluted mess) book and seen the (nonsensical) movie; (no surprise) didn't like either one.

Off Topic: Whenever you get the chance, check out "Red, White & Blue". It's currently on Netflix's Instant Watch.

LordSlaw said...

I read Straub's novel ages ago and I had to slog through it and didn't care for it much at all. To the point where I haven't read another Straub novel since then, and it's been many years. It sounds like, from your description Andre, the movie has many of the same problems as the book. Not that it was your intention, but thank you for confirming my stay-away-from-Straub policy.

Pearce said...

I didn't like this movie at all. I think that's largely because I read the book by Peter Strain first, and the movie left out all the good stuff.

Eddie Ho said...

Certainly one of the films in my collection. A great film to indoctrinate the young into horror as I did with my daughter. Scarey and eerie but not too terrifying. Thanks for the review --Eddie

Ace89 said...

Not a successfully realized film with many flaws- but Alice Krige's performance is truly eerie.