Ghosts of War
- Emma Simmonds
- 13 July 2020
So-so horror that combines supernatural tropes with a wartime setting
If you've ever wondered whether poltergeists or Nazis would make the most formidable adversaries, then here's your chance to find out. Marrying The Others with Inglourious Basterds should at least have resulted in something interesting, and Ghosts of War does have some surprises up its sleeve, but it doesn't make much out of either the mystical or military material, and will struggle to put the frighteners on hardened horror fans.
Australian actor Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent, Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge) makes a characteristically bland protagonist as he leads a group of soldiers in Nazi-occupied France, towards the end of WWII. Ordered to hold a spooky French chateau, formerly used as a base by Nazi high command, they encounter an unsettled environment from the off, with the men they are taking over from speeding away suspiciously. To make matters even more disconcerting, one of their number, Kyle Gallner's Tappert, is already acting strangely.
Writer-director Eric Bress has a pretty solid reputation in horror. If this is only his second time at the helm – following 2004's The Butterfly Effect – he's also responsible for the screenplays for Final Destination 2 and The Final Destination (the fourth film in that particular franchise).
For a time at least, Bress delivers a parade of standard haunted house hijinks. Insidious-style jump-scares – involving sudden, screeching ghouls – paper over the lack of a patient build-up or well-maintained suspense; such outlandishly rendered hauntings undermine attempts to get serious, while any hoped-for edge, given the men's potential twitchiness and psychological damage, is conspicuously absent. Still, it's interesting seeing conventional hero types pitted against the paranormal, Gallner (Veronica Mars) does a good job as the most-likely-to-go-mad, and if it goes in a daft direction then perhaps its ambition and displays of conscience should be applauded. Plus, Billy Zane pops up, and you don't get more disturbing than that.
Available to watch on demand from Fri 17 Jul.