Ghosts Of War

**

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Ghosts Of War
"If Bress had kept things simple, this would have been workmanlike."

Eric Bress' second film as a director comes 16 years after his first (The Butterfly Effect) but you could be forgiven for feeling like you've stepped back in time watching Ghosts Of War, a film whose scares and, ultimately, jingoistic politics, feel plucked from a bygone era.

Marrying a Second World War set of characters to haunted house shenanigans, if Bress had kept things simple, this would have been workmanlike. But never one to be able to resist a plot convolution, the logic of the film starts to fail in its final third with a complicated pay-off that aims to explain everything but is deeply unsatisfying.

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Back when things were simpler, near the start of the film, this tale of five squaddies sent in the throes of war to guard a sprawling chateau, has its moments, even if leader Chris (Brenton Thwaites), geek Eugene (Skylar Astin), gung-ho Butchie (Alan Ritchson) and unstable Tappert (Kyle Gallner) are virtually interchangeable save for those basic adjectives.

On arrival, the outfit they're relieving seem in big hurry to leave, despite the relatively cushy circumstances and it's not long before we're introduced to a familiar haunted house inventory, including a spooky basement complete with locked trunk and family photo, a room with an unexplained black rug stain, a girl's room with a wall of porcelain dolls and a music box, a bathroom with a tub that never seems to empty and an attic where things go bump - and not just at night. Soon, the dead occupants of the house - who have helpfully had their demise documented by a young soldier in a book being read by Eugene - begin to make their presence felt in serviceable, if repetitive, jump scares and whispery static on the soldiers' radio.

Although there's a stagey feel to the action, initially the atmospherics hold some interest, helped by suggestive sound design and militaristic scoring from Michael Suby, but early indications the film might present an interesting psychological dynamic between soldiers brutalised by war are soon jettisoned in favour of a ramping up of the supernatural. In that regard, the film also feels overstuffed, with Bress ladling in an occult pentagram in case the grisly death of a family isn't enough.

The cast deserve better in terms of character development, with Gallner getting and making the best of what scripting there is but these soldiers never feel like a solid or believable unit. The film itself also goes the same way, falling apart just at the moment it should all be coming together.

Reviewed on: 14 Jul 2020
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Ghosts Of War packshot
Five soldiers are assigned to hold a French chateau that was formerly occupied by the Nazi high command, only to encounter a supernatural enemy.

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