Ghosts of War (2020) Battles Ghosts Across Time in Average Paranormal Effort
Title: Ghosts of War
First Wide Release: July 17, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Eric Bress
Writer: Eric Bress
Runtime: 94 Minutes
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Kyle Gallner, Alan Ritchson
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
In World War II, a group of American soldiers are assigned to stand guard at a far-off outpost. Once they make it to their destination, they are greeted by an old French Chateau that, while now rundown, was clearly once illustrious in its prime. The group feels excitement after sleeping in the dirt and not using a proper latrine for weeks on end. Their initial elation turns to confusion when they find the current soldiers occupying the fortress eager, almost anxious, to leave their cushy accommodations. Soon they’ll find that their short-lived comfort will morph into terror as they come to grips with the powerful truth behind the home. Director of The Butterfly Effect and writer in the Final Destination series, Eric Bress returns to the director’s chair with his sophomore feature Ghosts of War.
Sharp cinematography, strong leading actors, and interesting ideas can’t save the weak script of this middling horror effort.
Kyle Gallner is the star of Ghosts of War regardless of who really is the main character. While Brenton Thwaites, and others, deliver fine performances, Gallner steps up to create a character that towers above the rest in terms of complexity and depth. Even still, Gallner often fades into the background of a film that pops from character to character without taking the time to examine beyond the stock caricatures they are given.
The setting makes for some really interesting moments, even if they don’t make much sense in the logic of the world presented. How was there no intervention during the battle scenes when the mansion is sieged? How is it that only certain casualties are explained while others aren’t? I understand that many of these questions and more can be explained through the supernatural lens of the film but it still doesn’t quite add up to me from a plotting standpoint. As I have mentioned before, Ghosts of War has an interesting premise; it could have used a bit more polish in the script before entering production.
I appreciate what the team behind Ghosts of War was going for, even if it doesn’t quite work. The first and third acts are where the film shines, and the second act is where it noticeably struggles, both in terms of pacing and the story’s development. The final twenty or so minutes of the film also gets dangerously handhold-y which gets irritating. This is also where a noticeable tone shift happens in the film. What once was a somber and, at times, brooding piece, leans heavily into shock and misdirection. While it is a welcome change of pace, it can be pretty jarring for viewers expecting a more traditional conclusion.
Once the third act reveal hits, it starts descending into something more ludicrous. I applaud the film’s attempt to draw parallels to acts of corruption and complicity in the face of evil, but I don’t think it lands the way they intend it to land. In fact, I don’t think the comparisons are really fair to the victims of atrocities. The idea of these sins repeating and entering a cycle of some sorts absolutely makes sense, especially in the context of American participation in war, but something about the way it is incorporated here doesn’t sit right with me. That feeling is borne from a sense of storytelling and justice.
I think there is a great story underneath all the mediocrity. It’s not a movie I can recommend to everyone, but fans of supernatural horror or war/horror may find something interesting in Ghosts of War. For me, I found a lot promise and potential only for it to dissipate in the typical conventions of haunted house fare dressed up in a twist as something new. Ghosts of War may fight an audacious battle, but it certainly doesn’t win the war against more compelling paranormal features.
Overall Score? 5.5/10