Ghost Story was originally a best-selling horror
novel by Stephen King's friend and sometime
collaborator, Peter Straub. I read it. Pretty spooky
stuff which centered on a race of shape-shifters who
live among us. It is quite Lovecraftian in its use
of isolated New England settings as the battleground
for the war between us, johnny-come-lately human
beings, and them, an older race embodying what would
be unspeakable blasphemies in terms of our Christian
mythos. Most frightening of all, they represent an
eternal evil which cannot be completely eradicated.
For reasons which I cannot fathom, Universal paid to
acquire the rights to Straub's terrifying novel,
then ignored it. The book and the film have little
in common except a title and some character names.
So what is the film about?
Well sir, it seems that a bunch of old codgers in
New England have a terrible secret. Fifty years ago,
in a moment of drunken bickering, they accidentally
killed a mysterious foreign woman whom they were all
sweet on. Panicking, they disposed of her body by
stuffing her into her car and pushing the car to the
bottom of a pond. There was no reason for them to
panic, because the other locals quickly lost
interest in the woman's disappearance. She, however,
did not take death lying down. Her corpse may have
been in that waterlogged car, but her spirit
continued to roam the earth. In ghastly form, she
continued to haunt the old geezers and their
Well, to tell you the truth, the one guy's son was
only there for plot exposition. Throughout the film,
he continues to ask the old guys if they know
something about this woman, and they gradually spin
their "Ghost Story." In order to reveal the mystery
at the appropriate pace, time switches back and
forth between the events surrounding her death and
the present day.
Blah, blah, yadda, yadda.
It's basically a scareless movie with a facile and
too-sudden resolution which will leave you thinking.
"That's it? That's all they had to do to defeat her?
Meh." Instead of winning a temporary respite from
timeless shape-shifting evil, they defeated her
soundly by simply opening a car door and exposing
her corpse to the light. That's it. End of movie.
She is done in by the dreaded, feared, open car
The best part of the movie, at least as far as I was
concerned, was the exquisite elegance of the woman,
as played by the Borg Queen herself, Alice Krige, as
the epitome of cold, sexy beauty, sort of a South
African version of Catherine Deneuve.
The film does have an interesting cast. The four
doddering old windbags are played by Melvyn Douglas,
Fred Astaire, Doug Fairbanks, and John Houseman, so
you'll get a chance to see how some of the great
screen figures aged. This was Douglas's last movie.