• James Harvey

Film Review: Ghost Stories - 2017

Format: DVD Language: English Released 2017

Director: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman

Starring: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse

The last in my insomnia driven horror movie marathon is ‘Ghost Stories’, a twisting horror anthology. Borrowing heavily from 60’s and 70’s English horrors such as the Hammer Horror films, as well as mixing in their own style of black humour and bleak storytelling, ‘Ghost Stories’ feels familiar yet refreshingly modern.

The film’s three main stories follow a sceptic professor named Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman), who makes his living exposing paranormal frauds on his television show, mainly in the form of medium readings and paranormal investigations. He is contacted out of the blue by an old television show idol of his, who was presumed dead many years ago after his car was found abandoned on a rural road.

From this point the film branches off into three different, seemingly unconnected cases, although each is more extreme than the previous one. The first a standard haunted asylum tale, where a night watchman, Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse), is visited by the increasingly active spirit of a child.

The second case finds our protagonist Phillip, interviewing a paranoid and mentally disturbed young man, Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther), in the lad’s home. Here the professor starts to notice things that may or may not be real. Simon spins a yard about a nightmarish incident late at night in a dark forest when his car breaks down. Yet, throughout his tale we are shown Simon’s relationship with his Father in the form of conversations over the phone and led to believe that he is a little loose with the truth; leaving both Phillip and the viewer trying to decide what parts of his story are true, if any of it is.

Finally, the third case brings us to the home of a wildly successful former banker, Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman) now lording it up on his rural estate. He tells the tale of a violent poltergeist that appears from nowhere and starts to harass him in his newly built, state of the art home.

After this the film starts to take a downturn story wise, the three cases start to connect and intertwine with Phillips life as well as his experiences with increasingly creepy coincidence. We see him struggle with his own inner demons and start to question his own beliefs and judgement.

It’s hard to continue without giving away the plot twist (sadly through the plot twist is so obvious you see it coming from early on in the film) so I’ll just say that the last act of the film, while a solid piece in its own right, jars with what came before. The excellent tension and creep faction that is slowly built up from the three stories is brought to a sudden and disappointing end as the film turns into more of a melodrama than an outright horror.

After the conclusion of the film I can’t help but feel a little short changed with the whole experience. The stellar performances from Paul Whitehouse (good to see him in a film, he is an underused talent in England), Martin Freeman and the simply amazing talent of Alex Lawther, all builds up the awkward tension of the film only to be wasted on a poor and obvious ending.

Having said that, ‘Ghost Stories’ is well worth a watch and did have me looking behind myself at some points in the film, something that doesn’t happen much with modern horror films in my experience. Even Kirk, stirred from his slumber and was transfixed by the second story before drifting off again midway through the third.

I would recommend watching this film late at night with the lights off and an open mind. Don’t come with preconceived expectations and you’ll go away with as smile for the fun to be had with the first half of the film. While the final act was indeed creepy and slightly disturbing with Martin Freeman, giving us one of his better performances, it will sadly, in my honest opinion, leave you a little disappointed.

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