Ghost Story (1981)

Ghost Story (1981), directed by John Irvin.

Four rich old men gather to tell their accustomed ghost stories. Maybe they shouldn't: a guilty secret from their past has awoken and is after them.

When I saw this in the theater -- wasn't it a snowy winter night? -- I remember being confused by the plot but effectively shocked by the jump scares, where a woman changes into a malevolent rotting corpse at all the wrong moments.

It's still a confusing plot -- too many extended flashbacks -- and the scares are not what they were. I now note that this is definitely a "mens" horror film: the subtext is fear of the crazy stalking girlfriend, who won't stop even when she's been under water for fifty years.

Passion and quite a bit of nudity by Alice Krige (age 22) and Craig Wasson (brave man).

Final film for Fred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, and Melvyn Douglas. Ah, well.

The screenplay is a much simplified version of Peter Straub's large novel. The book makes the movie a bit more comprehensible, although its good features would be hard to represent in film. The patient supernatural menace growing slowly, the men aware but afraid to talk about it, the sinister crazy-making influence extending to the whole town and even distant relatives.

Up-front, intrusive score. Photographed by Jack Cardiff.