We all love a good World War II movie. Saving Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge, heck, you could even count Captain America: The First Avenger as a great World War II movie. World War II movies have a great way of striking so much emotion, providing many thrills, and delivering on a visceral experience, but they also provide a social and cultural impact that is being felt even today. Now, in recent memory, World War II movies dipped their toes in some new territory with the film Overlord, maybe the first real main-stream horror movie set during that historical event. It takes place during the D-Day invasion, but the story itself is completely fictional by being a World War II movies with zombies. Overlord was a refreshing way of keeping the World War II genre alive and well by going in a completely new direction and still making newer audiences excited to see these types of movies. Ghosts of War is channeling the horror genre by being a straight up haunted house movie that truly delivers with a surprising amount of effect. Ghosts of War is a scary, violent and outrageously entertaining thrill ride that provides solid tension and a solid team dynamic with the characters.
Ghosts of War tells the story of five American soldiers who are all assigned a mission to hold down an estate, located in the country of France, that was previously occupied by Nazis during the latter part of World War II. When the five soldiers arrive and get accustomed to the Chateau, things immediately take a turn for the worst when the soldiers encounter a terrifying and supernatural entity that lurks around the entire building. Having experienced nothing like this before in their lives, these soldiers must do whatever it takes to make it through this rigorous task.
First and foremost, probably the best and most important aspect of Ghosts of War is that it’s really a lot of fun. For a movie that just over 90 minutes long, Ghosts of War delivers on a level of just enough quality and pure entertainment for the entire length. It doesn’t try to be as complex or as somber as some other World War II movies have been in the past, but it knows it’s not trying to be that, and it’s a refreshing element for this genre that audiences haven’t seen since Overlord. The film really takes it’s time to build up on the suspense once these guys arrive to this house by really introducing us them and allowing the audience to have a better understanding of the relationship between each and every one of the soldiers, so when the terror starts going down, the tension rises and the investment with the characters increases.
Director Eric Bress hasn’t been behind the camera since 2004 with The Butterfly Effect, and despite being somewhat of a commercial success, it’s safe to say that movie was a disappointment for both film pundits and critics. While that wasn’t a great demonstration of his talents as a director, Ghosts of War showcases his talents of paying great attention to creating effective atmosphere, putting the audience in intense shootouts, and crafting a gorgeous production design. Yes, there’re a lot of clichés in almost every horror movie, and that list is huge at the end of the day, so it’s inevitable that a horror movie will have creeping doors or loud and sudden footsteps from the another room, but what Bress succeeds in doing is making it simple, so simple that it genuinely works. He doesn’t try to imitate elements that one would expect in a horror movie or recreate something. Bress makes it his own the best way he can, but one thing he nails is the beautiful and haunting visual scope that this movie offers. Whether it’s the five soldiers walking through the plains of Europe or walking in and out of the mansion, Bress’s focus on the overall production design is absolutely terrific.
Ghosts of War also features an interesting ensemble of respected and competent actors, with the biggest being Brenton Thwaites, Alan Ritchson, and Billy Zane. Brenton Thwaites, who’s been in projects as large as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise or the small and powerful horror film Oculus, isn’t the world’s greatest young talent, but he’s more than serviceable. In Ghosts of War, Thwaites is very much likable and an efficient lead and he brings a lot of determination and seriousness to the character, which made his character more layered and interesting. Thwaites’s character is by far the most interesting and most developed, but the supporting team around him (Theo Rossi, Skylar Astin, and Kyle Gallner) all give solid performances.
Another piece of the puzzle that definitely works in Ghosts of War is the music. It’s definitely a startling and intense piece of work, but what’s so brilliant about the composition by Hans Erdmann is that it harkens back to this almost Hitchcockian style of story. The music in Ghosts of War was beautifully symmetrical to the music in the classic silent film Nosferatu, specifically in scenes of silence and suspense.
Ghosts of War, at the end of the day, is a World War II movie that dips itself into new and exciting territory and keeps the horror and war genre evolving and thriving. It’s not the greatest horror movie or World War II movie in the world, but Ghosts of War is a simple and satisfying horror experience. If you’re looking for something fresh, violent, and genuinely frightening, then Ghosts of War is your kind of fun.
Available on DirecTV beginning June 18th, 2020.
Available in virtual cinema screenings, on VOD, and digital beginning July 17th, 2020.
Final Score: 4 out 5.