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Review: Ghosts of War (2020)

Just by the fact that it’s a World War 2 set horror film that doesn’t deal with Nazi zombies, Ghosts of War got my attention. When I saw it was written and directed by Eric Bress who wrote the first two Final Destination films as well as writing and directing The Butterfly Effect, I became a lot more interested.

It’s 1944 and the war is nearing its end. Chris (Brenton Thwaites, The Signal, Oculus) leads his men Butchie (Alan Ritchson, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows), Eugene (Skylar Astin, Trolls: The Beat Goes On!), Tappert (Kyle Gallner, Alien Code, The Cleansing Hour) and Kirk (Theo Rossi, Luke Cage, Squealer) towards their next assignment. They’re relieving a unit holding down an elegant French Château. Despite it being a cushy job, the men there can’t leave fast enough.

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It soon becomes clear that they’re not alone. And whatever is in the building with them is much more dangerous than the German Army.

Ghosts of War caught me off guard from the start. These aren’t the stereotypical heroic GIs from so many other films. They don’t even measure up by anti-hero standards. After ambushing a Nazi patrol, one of them beats a helpless survivor to death with a tire iron while another pries gold teeth out of corpses. Watch for Billy Zane (The Believer, Dead Calm) in a cameo as one of the Germans, it’ll be important later.

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Once they get to their destination, Ghosts of War seems to turn into a conventional haunted house film. There are several effective scares and an attack by the Germans that turns into a supernatural battle. But then the story gets subverted as the plot moves in another direction. At around the forty-five-minute mark, there’s what seems like a massive, sloppy mistake in the script. It isn’t. And that’s where the film gets tricky.

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I’m not going to go into details and spoil it, but the final reveal really messes with Ghosts of War. It makes sense and fits with what we’ve seen up to that point, but still changes everything. I didn’t hate it, but I found it was something of a letdown compared to what leads up to it. Which is a pity because most of the film is on point and delivers a nice sense of dread punctuated with jump scares, occasional bursts of gore and effective ghosts.

Ghosts of War debuted on Direct TV June 18th. It expands to Virtual Cinema Screenings, On Demand and digital July 17th via Vertical Entertainment.

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