Combustible Celluloid
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With: Brenton Thwaites, Skylar Astin, Kyle Gallner, Theo Rossi, Alan Ritchson, Billy Zane
Written by: Eric Bress
Directed by: Eric Bress
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, disturbing and grisly images, language and brief nude images
Running Time: 94
Date: 07/17/2020

Ghosts of War (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Bad Juju

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Far more lightweight than most WWII movies, the horror tale Ghosts of War is a hybrid, pitting soldiers against ghosts.

It's 1944. A squad of five men, led by fresh-faced Chris (Brenton Thwaites), are ordered to hold a chateau — formerly occupied by Nazis — in the French countryside.

The other men are: rough-and-tumble Butchie (Alan Ritchson), sci-fi fan Eugene (Skylar Astin), soft-spoken, kind-hearted country boy Tappert (Kyle Gallner), matter-of-fact Kirk (Theo Rossi, from TV's Sons of Anarchy and Luke Cage).

They find strange things like scratches on the floor, a burned rug, and, eventually a satanic star painted on the floor. They start to see things in the shadows, flashlights flicker out while searching the basement, etc.

"This place is bad juju," drawls Tappert.

Eventually they try to leave, but... they can't.

Written and directed by Eric Bress, whose previous film The Butterfly Effect was released a whopping 16 years ago, Ghosts of War is a professional job, smooth and good-looking, with effective creeps and crawls.

Bress uses the chateau's large spaces to beautiful effect, crossing luxury with dread. Images that echo and mirror one another are cleverly done, creating a prickly sense of deja vu.

Though it's perhaps inspired by Ambrose Bierce's legendary short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (one of the characters mentions it), it will nonetheless be almost impossible to guess where Ghosts of War is actually going.

A potential problem, however, is that it takes such a wild, hard left turn that the spell the movie works so hard to cast may be broken. But the film's ending has such a satisfying click, it will most certainly be worth a look for horror fans.

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