In the world of big-budget ghost pictures, where movies like Poltergeist and Amityville Horror seem to get all the love, people often forget about this one, and I really can’t imagine why. The story deals with four aging friends who are receiving horrifying nightmares involving a strange brunette. When they, and their offspring, start dying in horrible ways, it’s soon obvious that something from another real is trying to break through. As one of their sons (Craig Wasson) investigates, they find out that it all involves a woman from their youth that they accidentally murdered and covered the crime up by trapping her under the river in an old car… while she was still alive. No wonder, if I was a ghost I’d be pissed off too.
Now don’t get me wrong, these four old men know they made a mistake, they’re not evil or anything like that. Besides, the fact that they’re played by some legendary screen actors. Dancing man Fred Astaire (not dancing, by the way), Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Melvyn Douglas and producer/actor John Houseman all give powerful performances, particularly Astaire who we see most of the running time and gives free reign to his dramatic range, something he was never able to do in his dancing comedy musicals. Looking at him I wondered why we never were able to see more sad, dramatic work from him, since he was a great actor in everything he touched. Other than Astaire, the main piece of casting belongs to the beautiful Alice Krige, here playing the tormented ghost woman. She is able to be dramatic, scary and sexy, something she’d put forth in every role, from the bitch in Silent Hill to the Borg Queen in Star Trek.
The film is set on what looks like a New England town in the winter, bringing that eerie Lovecraftian vibe into the storyline. The cold, harsh weather reflects the cold, harsh vengeance being given by the beautiful Alice Krige, and it sets up the mood perfectly. The makeup effects here were done by Dick Smith, the man who gave us the possessed girl in the Exorcist, and when Krige shows up in full-on rotting mode, it’s pretty gross. Sadly there are some very dated optical effects that kind of take you out of the movie, but still, I consider this to be one of the top 10 most underrated ghost films ever made, and I think it’s better than Poltergeist. See it!