New Streaming Releases: Ghosts of War (2020) - Reviewed

Eric Bress' (The Butterfly Effect) sophomore directorial feature, Ghosts of War is a subversive jaunt through an overdone genre.  What begins as a Saving Private Ryan knock off quickly descends into an occult nightmare of ghosts, vengeance, and regret.  Featuring a quintet of solid performances, a plethora of jump scares, and fascinating imagery, this is a solid middle of the road affair.  

Five WWII soldiers have been tasked with holding a chateau that was once occupied by Nazi royalty.  The house, however, has different plans, and the result is a ghost story with a shocking, if somewhat predictable twist.  Bress also wrote the script, which is both the strongest element and the weakest.  The dialogue is fun in an awkward way that walks a razor's edge between brotherhood, violence, and emotional turmoil.  The interactions with the characters are organic, and there are moments of surprising humanity sprinkled in between the supernatural sequences.  Beyond this is a mystery in which ample clues are hidden throughout, which at times creates inconsistencies that may initially frustrate, however, as the twist begins to reveal itself everything prior makes sense, almost too much so.  This realization will either entice or repel the viewer.  

The ensemble performance is the foundation of the story.  Brenton Thwaites' Chris is the "hero", supported by Theo Rossi's (Sons of Anarchy) wingman Kirk, Skylar Austin's bookworm Eugene, and Alan Ritchson's brawler Butchie.  However, it is the remarkable Kyle Gallner who steals the show as the contemplative sniper Tappert, ebbing between violence and compassion throughout.  While each character is a stereotype, each is also symbolic of different aspects of a soldiers' psyche and when melded together, the characters become emblematic of the dangers troops face every day in combat, no matter the time period.  Billy Zane (Demon Knight) has a regrettably small cameo as well.

Lorenzo Senatore's inspired cinematography is the final ingredient, bringing everything together inside an accursed mansion.  Despite the angular shots that inspire dread, there are some breathtaking (and terrifying) wide shots of battle-torn Europe, as the soldiers traverse a wasteland of mankind's horrible design.  Everything blends together to deliver a visual striking ghost story that is almost undone by its extreme finale.   

Available Friday via digital on demand, Ghosts of War is an interesting take on the wartime ghost yarn.  While its conclusion is most assuredly to divide, the journey there is definitely worth a rental.  Enhanced by a talented cast and solid direction, this is an excellent late-night feature choice.

Ghosts of War releases on the 17th on most major streaming platforms. 

--Kyle Jonathan