Although the overall plot of “Ghost Story” is clear enough, there are plenty of characters and odd moments in the film’s fringes that remain unaddressed by the end. This includes the haunting duet of Gregory Bate (Miguel Fernandes) and Fenny Bate (Lance Holcomb) as well as the unsettling hints and hints of what Eva/Alma is all about.
Of course, these questions are answered in Straub’s novel, which is a fairly dense 483-page book. Cohen, who had previously adapted Stephen King’s much simplified novel “Carrie” for Brian De Palma’s 1976 film, does an impressive job of whittling down Straub’s story but can’t quite solve all the problems created. by such simplification.
Additionally, Irvin found himself in a tough spot when it came to the film’s tone and content. Universal Pictures was initially interested in having the film rival the glut of gory slasher films released throughout 1981, and a number of gruesome practical effects designs had been planned for the film. Most of them were courtesy of effects makeup guru Dick Smith, who had just released such seminal horror effects movies as “Altered States” and “Scanners.” Smith designed several incarnations of the demonic Eva/Alma, very few of which appear in the final cut. Nevertheless, there remain a few provocative clichés, and articles like the one published in the February 1982 issue of Cinefantastique (which is quoted in this piece) at least provide some insight into what could have been an even more disturbing version of the film.
Despite these missing elements, “Ghost Story” retains its power to scare and entertain, and if nothing else is an impressive showcase for Fred Astaire’s range as a performer. It is only unfortunate that such a revelation came too late. Thus, “Ghost Story” is the only film where we can see Astaire stab a guy, survive a car accident, and fight a ghost. That’s life!