Ghost Stories Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
When a man of science stumbles across three different cases of paranormal activity, his belief in the rational is shaken, as inexplicable things begin to happen around him.
Genre: Drama / Horror
Director: Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman
Cast: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther, Samuel Bottomley, Amy Doyle, Daniel Hill & Deborah Wastell.
Run Time: 98 min.
US Release: 20 April 2018 (limited screening)
UK Release: 06 April 2018
German Release: 19 April 2018
Last in my string of reviews for horror flicks released this month in theatres, is the British fright film Ghost Stories. Directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, this feature is an adaptation of the stage play of the same name, written and executed by the same regisseurs. I stumbled across the trailer by sheer luck, as I hadn’t seen any announcement for it in cinemas. The trailer looked intriguing enough, so I decided to take my chances and buy a ticket. Plus, when Martin Freeman is in a scary movie you better go see it! What I obtained was an intellectually stimulating paranormal tale.
Sceptical professor Phillip Goodman (Nyman) is given a file of three unexplained cases of apparitions. Intrigued by their nature, he embarks on a quest to debunk these stories, searching for the eyewitnesses of each case. What he unravels is a truth that is more disturbing than anything he expected to find.
This is a very unique picture in its genre, paying homage to older British omnibus horror stories while presenting a smart and original tale for itself. An anthology flick, the plot concentrates on three distinct paranormal encounters, all narrated by the lead character Professor Goodman, who is trying to discredit these cases. What makes it so special is the fact that the three separate stories are connected through cleverly hidden symbols, forcing the viewer to pay closer attention to the unfolding plot.
It is also important to understand that the creators’ goal is not to scare the audience, even though the plot includes a fair share of jump scares, but to disturb them on a psychological level, which it manages to do really well.
Ghost Stories ends on a high note, with an unexpected but brilliant twist in its third act. However, as much as I enjoyed the cinematic journey, I need to confess that I found the pacing to be a little uneven, as it feels a lot longer than it is. This is after all re-written from a stage play and it shows! Each “ghost story” serves as an act, which works fine in theatres but ultimately suffers in the form of a choppy narrative-structure, when it comes to the movie.
Dialogue-wise, the film focuses a lot on trying to give plausible reasons to events that seem paranormal. Professor Goodman tries to approach each of these encounters with a psychological and scientific angle. The poster’s catch phrase “the brain sees what it wants to see” is also Goodman’s motto and a perfect clue as to what to expect.
Ghost Stories makes good use of a selection of different talented cast members. For one, there is young actor Alex Lawther who is basically a newcomer, only having taken part in a hand full of motion-pictures. He gives an excellent portrayal of the disturbed Simon Rifkind, who firmly believes he made an encounter with a demonic entity. Then there is veteran British comedian Paul Whitehouse, better known for his T.V. work and comedy sketches. Just as Lawther, Whitehouse manages to impress with his depiction of a broken family man, who is haunted by ghosts. The two that make the most significant impact, though, are Andy Nyman and Martin Freeman.
Professor Phillip Goodman is a man who lost faith in his religion, due to the harsh upbringing of his father. Growing up, he has made a career using science and psychology to debunk psychic personas, as well as ghostly apparitions. He even has his own television-series called “Psychic Cheats.” The accomplished British actor, magician and mentalist Andy Nyman not only did a brilliant directorial job with this production but also gave the main character some of his experiences as a mentalist, which helped shape Professor Goodman ins a realistic way.
Martin Freeman plays Mike Priddle, a wealthy businessman who is confronted by a poltergeist. Priddle is a quirky, judgemental and unnerving character, yet, Freeman plays him with so much charisma that you can’t overcome the feeling of liking him to a specific degree. The character seems a little one-dimensional at first but becomes more interesting the further his story progresses.
Cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland did a marvellous job! Just as the narrative uses pieces of numbers or strings of words, the camera-work includes specific objects or colours that connect the three separate stories and might be missed if not paying full attention. The constant recurrence of particular shots taken from unusual angles is fully revealed once the movie wraps up, and is an incredibly clever gimmick used. The washed-out colour palette as well as the used look, gives the feature a slight homemade feeling that adds to the build of terror. However, every tale has its style, in the form of colour and light.
Verdict: Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s British terror anthology is a welcome exchange to the usually bland and predictable paranormal flicks, released in the last couple of years. The solid cast consists of different British talents, all giving fantastic performances, especially Andy Nyman, who uses his knowledge as a mentalist to flesh out his character. Giving the movie more weight is internationally famed British actor Martin Freeman, with a grand performance. The cinematography is impressive; using visual breadcrumbs to connect the separate cases, while applying intriguing techniques to give the picture a worn out, home-video look that added to the feeling of horror. It does have a slight issue in pacing, which comes from adapting it from a screenplay. While the story itself is intriguing, the structure is choppy, making the overall runtime feel longer than it is. Nevertheless, Ghost Stories is one of the better horror films I have seen as of late and deserves an 8.0 out of 10.
If you haven’t seen Ghost Stories yet, I do recommend you see it in theatres! I know I will definitely buy it on Blu-Ray once it is out. Thank you very much for reading.