Five seasoned soldiers are blazing their way across the occupied French countryside of 1944. Their mission is to locate and safeguard a luxurious Chateau emancipated from enemy high command. Showing no mercy to the Nazi’s they engage or capture they defile corpses, tire-iron the wounded and heartlessly abuse any prisoners.
However, their contempt for The Geneva Convention comes back to haunt them, literally, when they reach their destination and uncover the biggest arsenal of established horror tropes in recent memory. If they run for their lives they will face a shameful court marshall, but if they stick to their orders they face a paranormal mauling at the coarsened hands of every cliche in the haunted house playbook.
This strident kitchen sink potboiler from the director of The Butterfly Effect is one of the most derivative movies you will ever see. So much so that ticking off the references becomes almost as entertaining as watching the flick itself.
Jacobs ladder, The Others, The Evil Dead and The Devils Backbone are just some of the more obvious influences and even Saving Private Ryan gets a look in. As one of the characters implores during the movie, “can we not just focus on one fucking thing for two seconds?”
On the flip side, you have to hand it to Ghosts of War for its scorched earth policy of genre carpet bombing. There is no abatement in its gory pebble dashing as Nazi’s are relentlessly hung, drowned and immolated. The surrounding hurricane of trope harvesting is astonishing as we are buffeted by time loops, telegraphed jump scares, black magic, Hitler Youth slaying child killers and a chimney dwelling squirrel carcass that can use its decomposing paws to tap out morse code warnings from beyond the rodential grave.
By the time the obligatory mega twist arrives there is precious little left in this fling it and hope it sticks chestnut festival for it to fuck up anyway. That being said, Ghosts of War leaves a cheeky trail of frangible breadcrumbs that is fun to track on the way to its preposterous denouement. Still, it will elicit a wry smile and a disbelieving head shake all the same.
Most of the thematic meat is blow-torched from the bones of believability but the inclusion of the Muslim doctrine that justice should always be exercised in the face of evil is fascinating. It’s a metaphysical reworking of Edmund Burke’s “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” that vitalises the narrative with welcome relevancy, and infiltrates the complex nucleus of PTSD.
Ghosts of War may well be yet another entry in the overcrowded house with bad juju genre, but it is an unapologetically forthright one. Too emotionally oblate to be legitimately impactful and far too well made to be considered a guilty pleasure trash fire, it seems destined to wander the gaudy wastelands of cult movie misfires.
The dynamic pace, high production values and tenacious violence will find its admirers, especially among those tired of the pretentious posturing and overbearing intellectualism of the recent surge of slow-burn horror.
Eric Bress has thrown us a blood-streaked patchwork horror comforter that designs to wrap us in the cosy fabric of familiarity.
Supernatural, World War II, Horror | UK, 2020 | 94m | 18 – strong violence, gore| Released across digital platforms on 17th July 2020 | Dir. Eric Bress| With. Brenton Thwaites, Theo Rossi, Kyle Gallner