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Ghost Story (1981) - Blu-ray Review

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Ghost Story (1981) - Blu-ray Review


4 stars

Adding to the supernatural splendor of Ghost Story are the matte paintings of Albert Whitlock and Syd Dutton. They add so much life to this frightening tale that it’s rather shocking to discover that the majority of them were edited out. Recognizing it as a forgotten art form in the pre-CGI days of my youth, Scream Factory and their release of director John Irvin’s Ghost Story, an American horror film based on the novel by Peter Straub. This it’s long-awaited debut in High Definition and, let me tell you, it was worth the wait.

There is a chilling atmosphere, dense with snow and ice, which is felt in every single frame of this film. And those effective matte paintings I started this review off with are there extending the look and overall feel of the film with a passion that no computer could ever match. As you settle in, know this, you will be frightened as Irvin drapes this production with a heavy curtain that cobwebs the nooks and crannies of your own imagination. The HD detail only adds to that thick atmosphere.

Starring Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and John Houseman, Ghost Story is a haunted tale of past actions that return to spook the living and, ironically, involve the dead. The film co-stars Craig Wasson in a dual role as Fairbanks’ twin sons and Alice Krige as the girl of his dreams. The film is firmly attached to the early 1980’s but could literally happen at any era beyond its birth year. This fact, as four old men discover a shared secret is very much alive, only adds to the film’s overall intensity.

Limited in its use of gore, the frights throughout Ghost Story come mainly from the tension and suspense as much of the narrative concerns itself with a secret that has come to haunt the four aging men. It is up to the brave actions of a few of them AND their offspring to make things right. And given the fact the adaptation is rather tight with dialogue, much of the film’s power is accomplished through atmospheres alone. Ghost Story will make you squirm. It will also make you long for a period of filmmaking that was still photographed with practical effects.

This is serious filmmaking. The film as a horror flick never stumbles or falters in its intention to spook its viewers. Much of it is inherently shocking that never succumbs to goofy behaviors or ridiculousness that pokes fun at the narrative, the actors, or the audience. The point is that Ghost Story is not insulting entertainment; it isn’t cheesy; it’s not coy. It is, in fact, old fashioned entertainment that rocks in quality and in suspense.

Ghost Story is EXACTLY how tales of phantoms and ghouls should be told.

Ghost Story (1981) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R.
110 mins
: John Irvin
Lawrence D. Cohen
Craig Wasson, Alice Krige, Fred Astaire
: Drama | Horror
The time has come to tell the tale.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Imagine her waiting for you all these years. Imagine her sleeping under ice and snow... waiting."
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
December 18, 1981
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
November 24, 2015
Synopsis: Four successful elderly gentlemen, members of the Chowder Society, share a gruesome, 50-year old secret. When one of Edward Wanderley's twin sons dies in a bizarre accident, the group begins to see a pattern of frightening events developing.

Ghost Story (1981) - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 11, 2014
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

Scream Factory presents Ghost Story on a newly minted 1080p transfer. While not a complete restoration, the transfer is pretty detailed. There is a nice layer of grain to much of the shadowed scenery. The 1080p transfer is an upgrade from previous versions. Colors are well-saturated. Black levels are strong. The contrast is high. The release is offered in a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track.



  • Offered from Director John Irvin, the feature length commentary is as solid as the picture. There is a lot to learn about the film and its making.

Special Features:

Complete with a nice lengthy interview with author Peter Straub, the supplemental material offered with this release is pretty solid. Alice Krige, in her 30 minute segment, talks about her career, what led her to acting, and her experience making the movie. Screenwriter Cohen is also interviewed as he discusses the development of the adaptation. Most interesting to me, though, is the visual effects discussion with Matte Photographer Bill Taylor. This is a seriously lost art these days. There is also a vintage trailer. TV Spots, and an 8-minute photo gallery.

  • Ghost Story Genesis (40 min)
  • Ghost Story Development (29 min)
  • Alice Krige: Being Alma and Eva (29 min)
  • Albert Whitlock Visual Effects with Bill Taylor (28 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Radio Spots
  • Photo Gallery

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