‘Ghosts Of War’ review: soldiers get spooked in supernatural WWII horror

If the Nazis weren't enough, these G.I.s have to fend off murderous spirits too

G hosts of War is a bad film, from its almost comically blunt title onwards. Yes, the ghosts are not just metaphorical memories but also actual spooky apparitions. The real shame is the ghosts aren’t that scary and the war scenes aren’t that gripping. If you’re going to commit to a title that gives the whole game away, at least fully commit to it in the manner of, say, Snakes on a Plane.

Directing his first film since 2004’s The Butterfly Effect, screenwriter Eric Bress provides us with a Second World War film set in Nazi-occupied France. It’s 1944 and five American soldiers are ordered to look after a chateau that was previously used by the Nazi top brass. Upon arriving at the plush and well-stocked abode, the quintet are disconcerted. The soldiers they relieve of duty are keen to leave pronto and bizarrely admit they weren’t even sleeping in the comfortable bedrooms upstairs during their stay. Soon, our gang are beset by an attack from German soldiers and nocturnal terrors that test their sanity. But is everything as it seems?

We chiefly see things from the point of view of Chris, who’s played by Brenton Thwaites (Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge and Gods of Egypt). This choice seems mildly unusual, given that Theo Rossi (from Sons of Anarchy), who plays tough guy Kirk here is surely the more charismatic actor. Skylar Astin from the first two Pitch Perfects and Glee, is also more interesting in his part as brainbox Eugene. Still, the actors do their best with rote, unimaginative dialogue and somewhat thin characterisation. They’re not helped by some unconvincing CGI and other scenes that seem bizarrely over-lit, a bad choice for any film but especially anything aiming for horror, a genre that so often relies on distinct moods of shadow and darkness.

Ghosts Of War
They’re ghosts, and they’re in a war. Credit: Vertigo Releasing

Fans of either The Butterfly Effect or Final Destination 2, which Bress wrote, will probably assume he’s filled this new film with fiendish scares, gore and a clever sci-fi mystery to keep us guessing. Up to a point, he has. There are some gruesome scenes and the ghosts do provide some terror but in trying to combine a war film and a horror film, it feels a bit feeble. Mildness is fine in a drama of sensitivity and grace but that is not what’s needed here. It’s certainly nowhere near as fun or gruesome as Overlord, Julius Avery’s far more entertaining 2018 US-soldiers-behind-enemy-lines Second World War film. That aside, when the inevitable twist does come, it’s so lame it’ll make most viewers roll their eyes for the remaining 20 minutes of the runtime.

Details

  • Director: Eric Bress
  • Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Theo Rossi, Kyle Gallner
  • Release date: July 17 (Digital)
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