Review: Generic World War II thriller 'Ghosts of War' KIA
Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
Nazi zombies (or ghouls) are at the forefront in the ill-inspired “Ghosts of War,” where a battalion of GLs are sent to hold down a remote French chateau and wait for help to arrive. Anyone who just watched “Overlord” will probably see a heaping of similarities, except that film had engaging characters, embraced its splatterfest roots, and used practical effects, unlike “Ghosts of War” where the action is mostly reverted to cheap jump scares (punctuated with lame musical cues) and every genre cliche you can imagine is on full display. Basically, this flimsy horror thriller is dead on arrival.
Each character certainly has a role to play: the squad of five is made up of the cocky Butchie (Alan Richerson); brainac Eugene (Skylar Astin), the lieutenant, Chris (Brenton Thwaites), and a sharpshooter whose motives can seem questionable (Kyle Gallner). None of them are practically memorable (save for Gallner whose accent is laughable) and their journey to the chateau less so. When they arrive to relieve the airborne troopers from their post, you can sense something is off about the group, and anyone with a brain will understand spending the night in this place is bad news.
Then again, anyone taking precious time out of their day to watch something like “Ghosts of War” can‘t be expecting anything revolutionary, they want something to pass the time and maybe scare them along the way. This film is nothing if not a colossal waste of time, but it‘s criminal the lack of scares coded in its DNA.
Once the group shacks up inside the mansion, like clockwork, they start to hear noises from beneath the floorboards, and some even see visions from the past. Obviously, something is trying to communicate with them, but what I’ll never understand is why do ghosts, who are trying to send a message from the other side, have to scream and claw at the people they want to help them? Can you blame these dudes for shooting anything that moves?
Directed by Eric Bress (who helmed “The Butterfly Effect,” a vastly underrated film) fails to nail down the broader genre elements, often going the clunky CGI route in favor of tension, hell, the lighting and cinematography can’t set the mood. Not to mention a solid cast of legitimate actors look lost in a film that doesn’t know how to use their talents. Even Billy Zane - playing a German soldier, among others - can’t amp up the campiness and make “Ghosts of War” a minor guilty pleasure. The reality is, we’ve seen it all before, executed much better with more precision.
Maybe one day in the future, you’ll be strolling through the boroughs of late night cable or streaming and come across “Ghosts of War” and think maybe it’s worth the watch.
I cannot stress enough that it is not.
GHOSTS OF WAR debuts digitally on July 17th. Check your listings.