A gaggle of American soldiers make their way to a fancy French chateau at the end of the second world war. A typical war movie’s motley crew of contrasting masculinities, the fivesome must confront their own mental fragility and flaws when the grand but ramshackle building appears to be haunted – perhaps by a family murdered by Nazi soldiers, or maybe by another more sinister set of entities. Worse still, when they try to get away they find themselves going in circles, trapped by forces they can’t understand. Maybe they’re all suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or maybe the blue-grey ghoulish figures spotted at the edge of frames and glimpsed in mirrors are the unquiet victims of an endless war.
Without deploying egregious spoilers, it’s impossible to explain why this seemingly bog-standard horror movie suddenly gets fractionally more interesting 20 minutes before the end. Does that make the preceding 74 minutes of entirely predictable plot manoeuvres and jump scares more interesting? Not especially, but it does slyly pull the rug out from under nitpicky viewers who think they’ve spotted anachronistic references along the way.
Little flourishes like that are on brand for writer-director Eric Bress, who is perhaps best known for his screenplay contributions to the Final Destination film franchise as well as for writing and directing time-travel/multiverse sci-fi movie The Butterfly Effect. This effort is similarly infuriating and entertaining by turns, and features pretty good performances from a handful of up-and-coming young male actors, including Brenton Thwaites and Kyle Gallner, along with lovable old ham Billy Zane putting in a last-act cameo.
• Ghosts of War is available on digital platforms from 17 July.