Ghost Brigade (1993) Review

One of the job hazards of reviewing movies is that you can’t just watch movies that you think are going to be good. Sometimes, you have to look at the storm on the horizon with grim determination and stand your ground as an hour and a half of your life gets sucked away by some dreadful B-movie. Yet, it’s not a complete loss. Watching the bad makes one appreciate the good. Furthermore, some low budget films just aren’t that bad.

An acquaintance of mine told me that he was an extra in this movie and said I had to watch it to satisfy my masochism. Ghost Brigade is an unremarkable film in its own right, but when considering the budget constraints of the film, it’s actually quite watchable.

Union Capt. John Harling (Adrian Pasdar) is tired of the American Civil War and seeks a discharge to return to civilian life. Unfortunately for him, Harling is also an excellent tracker, so his request is temporarily denied until he can locate a Confederate brigade that is strangely crucifying its enemies. Stranger than that, they don’t seem to die when they’re shot, stabbed or eviscerated by cannon fire. Harling enlists the help of Confederate Col. Nehemiah Strayn (Corbin Bernsen), newly residing within a Union stockade as a prisoner of war. Together, and with the help of a mute runaway slave girl (Cynda Williams), they must find a way to stop this seemingly undead army.

The key to enjoying this film is to set your expectations to rock bottom. A lot of the characters are flat or have predictable arcs. The writing is a little ham-fisted, especially with the narration that sometimes feels like a band-aid for visuals the production couldn’t afford. Furthermore, scenes of battle could have used a few dozen or so more extras. With that said, for as many times as Ghost Brigade measures short, the film will also surprise you in almost every facet.

While the acting isn’t anything you’d write home about, it’s definitely solid among the principals. The writing is also competent, working in a few memorable scenes and interesting dialog, like the exchange of barbs between Harling and Strayn over democracy and slavery. Lastly, the production value, while obviously hampered by cost, still does an admirable job at conveying the horrors of war.

This probably falls along the lines of a backhanded compliment, but Ghost Brigade isn’t the kind of movie that you add to your personal collection. You and your friends aren’t going to seek this film out on a Friday night. On the other hand, if you’re suffering from insomnia and flipping channels at 3 a.m., Ghost Brigade just might be the entertainment you’re looking for.

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