The film begins with The Chowder Society, a group of 4 elderly men played by some truly great actors (Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and John Houseman).
They get together every month to tell each other ghost stories, we catch the end of one which isn't particularly scary but the society state it's one of the most frightening they've told for a while, so the scary parts must have been before we met them.
But that doesn't matter as the Society also have a personal tale, some of which is in present day, the other part is a flashback story.
When one of them's son is murdered by an as yet unknown assailant, the young man's brother is called by their father to go back to their hometown 'Milburn'.
As Don (Craig Wasson of A Nightmare On Elm Street 3) returns home for his brothers funeral, he reconnects with his father and is adamant that his brother was murdered. His father says differently, he says they were all told it was simply an accident.
We find out that the Chowder Society have been suffering from terrible nightmares about a young woman, and when Don's father falls off a bridge, Don decides to investigate and join the society to tell them what he believes. They all then try to get to the bottom of the mystery.
I've already said too much, yes the plot is extremely predictable and it has almost every cliché jump scare to ever exist in horror. But it does it all extremely well. So I don't want to ruin it for you.
Almost from the start it's powerfully tense, not only through the plot but through the characters themselves. The relationships feel truly human, not as if they're being acted out for a film which really adds to the haunting atmosphere over the movie.
The dialogue in places seems a bit off, as does the acting, mainly from Alice Krige who plays someone very important to the story. But then as we've seen in the first Silent Hill film, she can pull off creepy but not much else.
The Society actors and Craig Wasson all act amazingly however.
Although a good story, I did start to get bored around the middle of the film.
With such a strong beginning in all ways a horror should have, it dies off and slows down a lot toward the middle. Granted it has decent reason but it doesn't speed and liven up again.
The ending is also quite disappointing as throughout the film it comes across as if there are much bigger plans to come into action, then it sticks with an old formula (even for that time) and we got the ending we got.
One thing I have to commend the film on are the makeup/prosthetic effects by Dick Smith and for a film from 1981, they'd fit perfectly into a horror from now and this new Blu-Ray release by Second Sight shows them in spectacular detail with the transfer.
Both picture and audio are spot on.
But I didn't expect to think they wouldn't be as every Second Sight release up to now has been spot on with transfers onto Blu-Ray.
- Ghost Story Genesis (39:42) - Peter Straub reads some passages from his book and speaks about it and the movie.
- Alice Krige: Being Alma Mobley and Eva Galli (28:52) - Alice speaks about the character(s) she plays, becoming an actress and more.
- Screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen and Producer Burt Weissbourd: Story Development (29:09) - Lawrence and Burt speak about putting the book to film, how important it is to make sure certain scenes are in it and more.
- The Visual Effects of Albert Whitlock: A Discussion With Matte Photographer Bill Taylor, ASC (28:51) - Bill speaks about how they achieved the magnificent effects of the film.
- TV Spot (00:31) - A simple TV spot which when you watch shows how brilliant the transfer is.
- Radio Spot (1:00) - Advertisements that aired on the radio for the film
- Photo Gallery (08:43) - Stills of the film and behind the scenes.
- Trailer (02:26) - An official trailer which makes the film seem much better and bigger than it is.
In all, I would have to give the film:
It somehow had everything it needed but ultimately fell a bit flat.
The movie is released on Blu-Ray by Second Sight on December 7th and you can preorder here.