Ghosts of War

  • 01 Aug - 07 Aug, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

If you're old enough to remember a time when Nazis were scary enough all by themselves, you may be a bit flummoxed by Ghosts of War. Combining war and horror movie tropes in an awkward manner more silly than scary, this belated sophomore feature from writer/director Eric Bress (2004's The Butterfly Effect) makes you long for the days when American G.I.s didn't have to fight supernatural beings as well as German soldiers.

The genre mash-up begins conventionally enough, with five American soldiers dispatching a group of Nazis, including one played by Billy Zane. That such a familiar actor dies within the first few minutes provides a pretty reasonable clue that things are going to get pretty strange, and indeed they do.

The soldiers, led by Lt. Goodson (Brenton Thwaites), encompass a group (Sklyar Astin, Theo Rossi, Kyle Gallner, Alan Ritchson) whose extremely disparate personality traits seem to have been designed by a character-defining algorithm.

The quintet's next assignment is to position themselves in a lavish chateau in the French countryside, previously used by high-level Nazi officers and currently occupied by American soldiers whose shell-shocked demeanors and extreme rush to move on indicate that their stay there hasn't been a pleasant one.

The same holds true for Lt. Goodson and his men, who soon discover things very much going bump in the night in the chateau, which, we eventually learn, is haunted by the French family who once lived there before being murdered by the Nazis for hiding refugee Jews. The same Jews, presumably, whom the soldiers encounter more than once during their wanderings, many wearing concentration camp uniforms.

The proceedings quickly devolve into standard horror movie clichés, including horrific visions that turn out to be nightmares and jarring noises that are revealed to be nothing more sinister than a tea kettle going off.

Not surprisingly, the soldiers make the wise decision to vacate the premises, one declaring. But the strangeness doesn't end after they leave, prompting one of them to compare their situation to Ambrose Bierce's classic short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, a reference that doesn't exactly come off as organic.

It's at this point that Ghosts of War delivers the sort of whopping, out-of-left field plot twist that you'll either find extremely clever in a Rod Serling sort of way or make you simply throw up your hands.