GHOSTS OF WAR is a new horror-thriller from Eric Bress, who also wrote and directed The Butterfly Effect (2004). His new movie starts out pretty damn perfectly but then it completely collapses on itself. In several ways. Read how in our full Ghosts of War review here!
GHOSTS OF WAR is a new horror-thriller that starts out so well that my expectations for it shot up immediately. Unfortunately, it’s a near-total collapse before it ends. I have rarely been so disappointed with how a movie progresses.
In terms of both style, cast and storyline, Ghosts of War has so much potential. There is nothing to really warn you that this movie is about to just up and implode on itself. Even though there is actually a very strange moment early on that should have been an initial warning.
Continue reading our Ghosts of War review below.
The cast of Ghosts of War
Before I get into what went wrong with Ghosts of War, let me start out by giving credit to the cast. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the cast of Ghosts of War. In fact, the five actors starring in this movie deliver some really solid performances.
The five brothers in arms are portrayed by Brenton Thwaites, Theo Rossi, Kyle Gallner, Skylar Astin, and Alan Ritchson.
Brenton Thwaites is in charge as Chris. You may recognize Thwaites from Mike Flanagan’s Oculus or Gods of Egypt (2016). Theo Rossi (“Juice” on Sons of Anarchy) plays Kirk, who is a strong and stable soldier.
Kyle Gallner is the soldier that seems to take it way too far one moment but then calmly helps Jewish refugees the next. He basically has a very strong sense of right and wrong. Kyle Gallner is quickly making a career out of portraying characters that a just a bit too far out there – most recently in The Master Cleanse. And he always does an excellent job.
Skylar Astin is Eugene. The classic brainy guy, who wears glasses and always has a book with him. Prior to watching Skylar Astin in this, I knew him primarily from Pitch Perfect so this felt very different.
Finally, Alan Ritchson plays “Butchie” and yes, he is the big butch guy, who always fights for his brothers. You should know Alan Ritchson from Black Mirror (the “Nosedive” episode), The Hunger Games, and Titans.
Billy Zane is also in this movie (also as a producer), but honestly, I haven’t expected anything impressive from him for years. No disrespect meant, despite the fact that I know it sounds that way, he simply delivers the same performance every time. It isn’t a character, I see. Instead, I just see Billy Zane in the movie… and having him speak badly German does not help!
Strange choice of editing or just plain wrong?
As stated already, Ghosts of War starts out by having all the right moves. The horror is elegant and we witness both the horrors of war and the moments of kindness. This does, fortunately, go on for quite some time.
Then, out of nowhere it seems, comes a scene that is completely out of bounds in terms of chronology. Suddenly, the characters have wounds that they did not have in the previous scene and the mood seems to have changed. Then comes a scene that explains how they got these scars before moving back to the scene with scars.
Not as a flashback or anything, mind you. More as either an error or a way of editing that doesn’t work within a story that is otherwise straight-forward. For the most part, anyway.
From elegant horror to jump scares on repeat
And then came the “jump scare”-repeat train. Oh. My. God.
It was like playing a video game. First, you get a little dialogue scene to set the stage. Then someone walks into a room and is suddenly alone there. The music picks up and then “Ahhh!” jump scare!
That is not scary! At all. I mean, you’re telling us that something creepy is coming up again and again. Don’t even get me started on the actual ending, which has so much shitty (yes, really) CGI that it comes across as some sort of TV movie. I can only hope that the screener we received has been updated since, but I really doubt it.
And yes, I am no doubt more disappointed by everything that isn’t awesome, because Ghosts of War did start out so well. That’s the only reason why the overall rating isn’t lower!
Watch Ghosts of War on digital and on Netflix
Eric Bress wrote and directed Ghosts of War and this movie certainly has the potential of his earlier work. It just feels like it’s coming out a good ten years too late to be impressive. I’m referring to the final part of the story here since I did love the beginning in every way.
Back in 2004, Eric Bress co-wrote and co-directed The Butterfly Effect which is a damn brilliant movie. This is his first time directing since making that movie. Bress made The Butterfly Effect with J. Mackye Gruber, who is also just getting back into directing now. It almost seems like some kind of curse that neither of them continued right after.
The two did also write the screenplay for Final Destination 2 which came out in 2003. That’s probably why Eric Bress also wrote the screenplay for The Final Destination which came out in 2009 and was the fourth in the Final Destination franchise.
In any case, Eric Bress is now back as both a writer and director with Ghosts of War. Based on what he has made in the past, I simply have to give him the benefit of the doubt. I just feel a need to believe that this final product is not what he had in mind. Hopefully, he’ll soon be back with something new that’s closer to what he wrote and directed earlier!
Ghosts of War is out in Virtual Cinema Screenings, On Demand, and Digital on July 17, 2020, after its release on DirecTV on June 18, 2020. The movie will also be added to Netflix on November 25, 2020.
Director: Eric Bress
Writer: Eric Bress
Stars: Brenton Thwaites, Theo Rossi, Kyle Gallner, Skylar Astin, Alan Ritchson, Billy Zane
Five battle-hardened American soldiers are assigned to hold a French Chateau near the end of World War II. Formerly occupied by the Nazi high command, this unexpected respite quickly descends into madness when they encounter a supernatural enemy far more terrifying than anything seen on the battlefield.