6th April 2018 (UK) 20th April 2018 (US VOD)
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'.
Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse
Horror anthologies, by their very nature, are a mixed bag. For every Creepshow there’s a Creepshow 3 and for every Trick ‘R Treat theres, well, Creepshow 3. The beauty of them though is if you’re not enjoying one segment, you’re never too far away from another. British effort Ghost Stories is the latest (and frankly long overdue) compilation of scary short stories and thankfully it’s more Creephow than, yep, Creepshow 3.
Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman, who also co-directed and co-wrote the film with Jeremy Dyson) doesn’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural. He’s made a career out of disproving and exposing frauds who claim to contact the dead to prey on vulnerable family members just like his idol, famed 1970s paranormal investigator Charles Cameron (Leonard Byrne).
In the ultimate irony, Cameron himself mysteriously disappeared and was presumed dead for decades. When Goodman receives an invitation to visit Cameron, he finds his hero holed up in a filthy caravan and full of insults for the work Goodman is doing. Cameron offers Goodman a chance to investigate three seemingly unexplainable cases: the tale of a night watchman in an abandoned women’s refuge, the case of a young boy who, while driving on a dark road home, hits something otherworldly with his car and finally the inexplicable story of a wealthy financier who is plagued by a poltergeist at home while he waits for his wife to give birth.
Each story has its own style of horror: the first is a trope-filled but extremely tense slow burner, the second is more of a comedy horror and the third ramps up the jump scare factor. What Ghost Stories does so well though is it gives ample background to the characters telling the story before delving into the cases themselves. Goodman visits each one of them individually and they all have their own distinguishable quirks to make every story unique, with Case Two’s eerie home and its inhabitants being a highlight that disappointingly isn’t explored far enough.
British comedy veteran Paul Whitehouse is a standout performer as the working class night watchman in Case One who injects a little dry humour into a mostly serious role, while Martin Freeman is on form as his usual distracted twitchy self in Case Three playing game hunter and filthy rich Mike Priddle. Case Two’s Alex Lawther (who can be seen in the critically acclaimed TV series The End of the F***ng World) is a talent to look out for as he is by far the most unnerving presence as troubled adolescent Simon Rifkind. It’s a little annoying that there’s no real investigating into all the cases, which consist of Goodman venturing to different parts of the country undertaking different activities while the people involved recall what happened to them before he moves onto another.
Once all the cases have been told, Ghost Stories does lose its way by trying to tell its own tall tale about Goodman. Here, it veers away from horror and ends up being more of a soul-searching drama, completely changing the tone of everything which preceded it. It’s never boring though and does set everything up nicely for its unpredictable end.
I had no idea Ghost Stories was based on a play but its big reveal is undeniably theatrical and can easily be pictured happening on a stage. Some may feel like the rug-pulling finale is a cheap move and on reflection, there’s a lot that doesn’t fit into what it’s trying to achieve, but the cases are entertaining enough on their own to not feel too cheated.
Ghost Stories is the first real horror release of the year that would comfortably make it into people’s yearly Halloween film watching marathons. It won’t quite keep you up at night, but it provides strong evidence to at least keep the lights on a little longer before bed.
All three cases are strong
Great atmosphere throughout with effective jumpscares
Fantastic performances from veteran and upcoming actors
The finale may leave some a little cold