UK Release Date: 6th April 2018
Runtime: 98 minutes
Director: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Writer: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Starring: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther
Synopsis: A professor who has devoted his entire life to debunking the paranormal is challenged to investigate and explain three apparently legitimate supernatural experiences.
It will be when you are doubled over in terror or guffawing over an expertly pitched laugh line that you realise how special a movie Ghost Stories is. Its marriage of horror movie tropes throughout its three different vignettes, which are scary in new and different ways, and its eye for a disarming joke is a compelling mix that makes the finished product riotously entertaining.
The story follows Phillip Goodman, played by co-writer and co-director Andy Nyman. Goodman is a paranormalist who has spent his life disproving supposed evidence of the supernatural and we meet him undoing the work of a fake psychic during one of his stage shows. Goodman is presented with three cases that a previously eminent paranormalist says are unsolvable and would prove, without doubt, the existence of a world beyond our own. Goodman dutifully investigates the cases, and it is there that the movie begins to shine. The appreciation shown by directors Nyman and Jeremy Dyson of the different horror sub-genres that each story is aping lends it an air of familiarity, but its wit and cool direction means nothing feels tired, and it certainly doesn’t stop the scares from coming thick and fast.
It’s easy in horror to praise directors over all others, and Nyman and Dyson certainly deserve any plaudits sent their way for their masterful ability to change tone and story while keeping the tension consistent, but there is truly excellent work done by the actors in each vignette which lends everything a level of gravitas.
Paul Whitehouse and Alex Lawther are particularly deserving of praise for their roles in the two opening stories. In a film where both face a limited period of time in which to get audiences invested in their character, they manage it admirably. Whitehouse presents a relatable charm which gives the audience space to invest in him, elevating the horror he faces. Lawther, meanwhile, is captivatingly weird – all eccentricity and twitches – and while this may initially seem too loud compared with Whitehouse’s more relatable turn, it’s in fact a standout sequence and gives the movie a completely new energy as it goes into its final act.
If there is a weakness, it’s in the final story. Martin Freeman receives top billing on the posters and his performance is good, but it can’t quite salvage the mess starting to unfold around him. There’s a lot happening in the final act, which tries to tell an independent story while uniting all three of the other segments, and its difficult to say it works flawlessly. However, this doesn’t deaden the film’s impact.
Indeed, the most frustrating part of Ghost Stories is that it doesn’t manage to keep its cool head the whole way through. When the story strays away from the relatable and conventional horror settings to which it has been confined in its three stories, you start to feel the writers reaching for something extra – a last little bit of flair to take them home. They might not find it, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is an excellent horror film which delivers some of the best scares and laughs you will have had in a cinema this year.
Pop or Poop?
Ghost Stories, like any great horror anthology, finds a mix of different tones and styles to create a compelling patchwork of terrifying tales. Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, adapting their own play for the big screen, are obviously coming from a place of love and affection for the genre and their tonal concoction works to great effect.
Nyman, Alex Lawther and Paul Whitehouse deliver standout performances and hold the movie together, even as the narrative unravels slightly in the third act.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.