Arch skeptic Professor Phillip Goodman embarks upon a terror-filled quest when he stumbles across a long-lost file containing details of three cases of inexplicable 'hauntings'.
April 20th, 2018
You know it’s coming. You’ve seen enough horror flicks to recognize that there’s gonna be some sort of twist and/or major reveal at the film’s conclusion.
The trick is – will the filmmaker (s) actually surprise you when they allow you to see behind the curtain?
Ghost Stories is a new horror anthology from co-writers/co-directors Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson.
Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman in the lead role) is a paranormal investigator – of the “ultra-skeptic” brand. He hosts a television show which is meant to debunk things of a supernatural or psychic nature. When he is invited to the home of a thought-to-be dead former television debunker (and Goodman’s idol in the biz) named Charles Cameron – Goodman’s beliefs on an afterlife might be altered. For you see, Cameron is offering up case-files to three of his most haunting hauntings (yes, I meant to repeat that word). Things which he was unable to solve. And he’s asking that Goodman take a look at these cases – in the hopes of finally putting them to rest in Cameron’s mind.
But what will these cases bring about in Goodman’s own mind – and what will they rile up from his past?
I was reminded of several films – which seem to have inspired Ghost Stories. The original Tales from the Crypt (not the television show) from 1972. The varying tones of each of the “cases” felt like an homage to that Amicus Productions anthology.
There are also hints of IT – when we receive a bit of history on Goodman’s childhood.
Ghost Stories is beautifully photographed and edited. It’s always such a pleasure to not be taken from the story by a bad cut, a strange camera movement or a lingering image. And while you’re not necessarily supposed to focus on certain technical things (these pieces to a filmmaker puzzle aren’t meant to draw attention), you can still marvel at certain technical moments – where the actor isn’t center stage. A good example here is the beautiful long shot of Freeman and Nyman walking in a field during the film’s third segment. It’s rich, detailed and has a “blink and you’ll miss it” extra bit of information on the far end of the screen. I also loved the many insert/close-up shots of hands and faces. The way they were framed (with the addition of some striking sound effects work) did end up drawing my attention – but in a good way – notably in the film’s first segment.
The film’s closing credits are accompanied by the old “Monster Mash” song. And while the film is far more high-brow and sentimental than I would have expected – the addition of this campy music classic, offers some additional insight into the film’s “other” tone.
As our lead, Nyman really delivers the goods. Goodman is a lonely character, and Nyman’s sort of schlubby appearance offers a good idea of who this person is. His posture is unimpressive, and at one point, Goodman is called out for who he really is – and for the “character” he puts out into the world (via his program). Nyman is also able to find great nuance in some of the character’s more emotional moments. I was struck by a dialogue-less scene where Goodman sits on a sea-side bench, watching a couple of kids playing around on the beach (which will be important later). The camera-work is lovely here. And Goodman’s silent reactions (to the aforementioned “calling out” – it’s the scene just prior) are full of regret, confusion and sadness – all with no words spoken. It’s a very powerful moment.
Martin Freeman (The Hobbit Trilogy) is Mr. Priddle – the central focus of the third “case”. Freeman is, of course – a natural and brings a certain prominence to Mr. Priddle. Priddle’s a rich guy with a vast estate, and Freeman perfectly captures that mightier-than-thou attitude of the 1%. This portrayal of an “above you” sort of person – comes in handy as the tale unfolds. Freeman also gives Priddle a playful side which I found quite engaging.
Until the film reached its conclusion, I was about to make a comment regarding the varied tones of the individual stories. One is quite spooky, one is rather goofy and one is more mysterious and esoteric. But now knowing the reason and connections behind these tales – it makes more sense. So potential “complaint” averted!
The film’s final image is quite striking – and perfectly established early on. The payoff is heartbreaking, once you make the connection. And it always pleases me when things are nicely wrapped-up, no loose ends – and are not “hitting you over the head” with the set-up for the intended payoff.
There are lots of clues which will properly find their completion by the film’s end. But I do believe – like the mother of all “twist” movies, The Sixth Sense – that further viewings might be worthwhile, just to pick up on what I can only imagine are many more Easter eggs of information/clues.
Ghost Stories was originally written/produced as a stage-play, and some of the visual tricks in this film, well, you can plainly see trinkets of stage-craft which must have been a hoot with a live audience. So in that, many of the fun bits of the film, are quite theatrical.
Young actor Alex Lawther, who appeared as a young Alan Turing in the Oscar-winning The Imitation Game, appears as the case-study in the film’s second chapter.
With strong performances, a slightly convoluted structure (while still enjoyable) and beautiful cinematography, Ghost Stories is 100% worth your time and your dime!
The film is scheduled for VOD release, as well as a limited theatrical release, on April 20th, 2018.