Glossy modern horror films tend to rely on (mostly dreadful) CGI to deliver their ‘shocks’ but there was a time when terror came from the simple art of good storytelling. Anyone familiar with the stories of M.R. James will know the power that imagination and invention can have. In Ghost Story, John Irwin’s film based on Peter Straub’s bestselling book of the same name, the art of spinning a yarn is paramount.

In a small New England town four old friends who make up the Chowder Society meet in private and tell each other scary stories. Ricky (Fred Astaire), Sears (John Houseman), John (Melvyn Douglas) and Edward (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) have been friends since their youth and have all had successful lives. Now in their twilight years they look forward to these gatherings and leading quiet lives, but this tranquillity is shattered when Edward’s son David (Craig Wasson) falls to his death from his apartment, soon followed by his father in similar circumstances. After their deaths Edward’s other son Don (Wasson) arrives with a strange tale about a girl named Alma (Alice Krige).

It’s great to see such esteemed actors clearly revelling in their roles in what was for most their final film. Ghost Story starts in reassuring tones around the fireplace but the tension and drama builds during the first half of the film. Unfortunately, it does rather lose its way as it stutters towards the end, but it’s still great to see proper narrative stroytelling in a horror film. Ghost Story is old school but still retains its grotesque appeal.

Ghost Story is released on DVD and Blu-ray by Second Sight on Monday.