Movie Review: Ghosts Of War (2020)

July 15, 2020

Written by Kelli Marchman McNeely

Kelli Marchman McNeely - Horror Fuel CEO & Executive Producer Email: [email protected]

 

 

The moment I saw the trailer for writer-director Eric Bress’ Ghosts of War I knew that I HAD to see it. Not only is it a horror movie, but it’s also a war movie, two things I’m a sucker for.

Are you tired of the same old overly hyped horror movie that promises to be “one of the best movies of the year” only to be a total let a down? Well, that’s not the case with Ghosts of War. It actually is that good.

 

 

Ghosts of War opens with a haunting quote.

 

This war will not end. With every mile my body and spirit break. Every jolt makes brittle my mind. Each step pulls me further from homeuntil I am the shell of the man that kissed my mother goodbye a forever ago.

And I tense endlessly. Not knowing which will arrive first, the bullet that takes my life or my final chance for redemption. 

                                  – Private First Class D. Werner, WWII (18 years old)

 

Wow. That’s what this movie kicks off with? The statement made by that soldier so long ago speaks so loudly about the reality of war, both then and now. It’s heartbreaking and scary. There’s your first clue that you’re in for a serious movie.

In Ghosts of War, set during WWII, a squad of soldiers is sent to guard a mansion taken from the Nazis. You would think it would be an easy job, lounging around in a gorgeous house filled with food and wine, but you’d be wrong. When the squad arrives to relieve another group of soldiers, which are more than happy to leave the sprawling manor turned outpost as quickly as they can and get back to the rough conditions of the battlefield. It doesn’t take long for the new soldiers to realize that something is very wrong with the place when strange noises and paranormal activity begin to plague them. Soon the group is locked in a fight for survival. As if fighting Nazis weren’t bad enough, they now must also find a way to survive some seriously pissed off ghosts.

Let me tell you this now, this is not your average horror film. The story is complex and smart. It is filled to the brim with so many small but important details that intertwine with the story. Blink, and you might miss them.

Ghosts of War is intense and features nearly nonstop action. And yes, there is real tension, and both real scares and jump scares. I even jumped so hard at one point I fell right off my bed and right onto my butt. I don’t get scared often during movies, but when one actually gets me, I’m impressed.

One of the things that make Ghosts of War so special, is character development. These are not your average two-dimensional horror characters. We really get to know these soldiers, their histories, and their scars. That goes a long way towards developing empathy for them, which I believe is key to making a good film.

The cast is absolutely amazing and includes Brenton Thwaites, “Sons of Anarchy” star Theo Rossi, Kyle Gallner, Skylar Astin, Alan Ritchenson (who I interviewed for Syfy’s series “Blood Drive”), and Billy Zane. The entire cast is such a great fit for their characters, but one actor really stood out to me, Kyle Gallner. I can’t help but feel like he really poured his all into his character, Tappert, and it shows. Tappert is different than the other soldiers, a bit quiet and a little twisted, a little dark, is really affected by the things he’s seen and done in the war, and carrying what has to be is a tough case of PTSD. Gallner brings a realness, a sincerity to Tappert that I don’t think we see enough in this genre. Well done Gallner, well done.

Writer-director Eric Bress has created a movie that is clever, unique, and spooky as hell. Bress makes so many great choices with Ghosts of War, from character development, cast, the look, to the way war, fear, regret, and comradery combine, as well as the message he wants to get across. It’s not just about scaring the audience, the movie is on a mission not to explain what it is like for soldiers who suffer from PTSD, but to put you in their headspace, for you to experience the pain, fear, panic, and horrors that they live with daily.

The cinematography by Lorenzo Senatore is to die for. While the film features a slightly muted palette to fit the 1944 period, it still finds a way to look so rich and beautiful even when there’s blood being shed, and there’s a lot of that.

When it comes to the special effects, from tiny details and battle wounds to haunting spirits to huge explosions, they absolutely nailed it. The ghosts are fantastic, creepy, and downright nasty.

If you are in the market for something gory and bloody, it’s got you covered. If you want a story that is interesting and complex, watch this movie. It really has everything you could want in a horror movie, ghosts, action, gore, struggle, and death, with a little history thrown in.

It has one hell of a twist in its final moments, revealing that not everything is how it seems to be. Don’t worry, I’m not giving any spoilers, but I will say this, it’s something you would NEVER see coming. The ending changes everything you thought you knew about the movie. I can almost guarantee that you’ll have the urge to watch it again immediately and when you do, you will look at it in a whole new light.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if (hell, I hope) a sequel shows up, it left it wide open for one, and frankly, I’d love to see the story continue.

There is only one rating that I can give Ghosts of War, a 5 out of 5. It’s so good that it has already earned a spot on our annual “Best Horror Movies Of 2020” list.

Ghosts of War arrives on July 17, 2020, in virtual cinemas, On Demand, and Digital, from Vertical Entertainment. I urge you to check it out.

 

 

 

 

The truth is our veterans suffer and go without the help they need and that desperately needs to change. Sure, the government has no issue putting someone’s life on the line in a war, but rarely ever do they offer our veterans the help they really need once they get home. Getting a VA appointment with a doctor or a psychiatrist to get treatment for PTSD is a real problem. VAs are often backlogged and many veterans with severe issues struggle with side effects. Let me put it like this, in 2017 over 45,000 veterans took their own life, most struggling with mental health issues. Over 45,000! If that’s not a problem, I don’t know what is. For Ghosts of War to try to shed light on the subject is an amazing and honorable thing.

If you are a veteran or know someone who wants to know more about PTSD you can find that here.

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