Dir. Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman
Starring: Andy Nyman, Paul Whitehorse, Alex Lawther, and Martin Freeman.
Based on their own stage play, directors and writers Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman bring their creation to the big screen. I’ve never seen the aforementioned play, in fact before the movie came out I hadn’t even heard of it. Dyson is best known for The League Of Gentlemen, whilst Nyman is best known for his work with Derren Brown. The influence of both is apparent on the screen. This is classic horror, with its roots in psychology.
Andy Nyman plays Professor Goodman, a tv personality who hosts a documentary series exposing psychic frauds. When his hero, Professor Charles Cameron, an older tv host who debunked the supernatural, invites him to look at three cases which have evaded explanation, Goldman sets out to find the logical explanation. What follows is an anthology of three different stories told through interview and flash back. Paul Whitehouse, and his tale of an abandoned asylum. Alex Lawther, and his late night drive through the woods; and Martin Freeman, and his experience with a poltergeist.
Ghost Stories is a genuinely scary movie. Scary in a way rarely seen these days. It’s creepy, it’s weird, and it’s superbly done. It’s very easy to describe this as a rollercoaster of a movie. It eases you into it, and then the tension starts to build, ratcheting up until the big scare, and then it sends you hurtling into the abyss, making you both grip the arm of your seat, and giving you a huge smile at the same time. There’s a pattern to it as well, with each story ending at its most horrific for a quick reset before we hurtle into the next story. There is an over arcing plot to the anthology style, clues which keen eyed viewers will pick up on early. It helps hold the film together, and allows for some genuine twists and turns, which are satisfyingly tied up.
The cast are superb. Alex Lawther is a rising British talent, after starring in an episode of Black Mirror, and The End Of The F**king World. He may be in danger of being type cast, but boy does he do creepy well. The whole of his segment is pretty much shown through close ups, and he sells the terror particularly well. Paul Whitehouse is great in more dramatic role for him, and Martin Freeman is reliably solid. It’s perhaps telling that all these actors can do comedy well, and though this film is certainly not a comedy, laughs are used in the same way as a jump scare, it’s a release of the tension the film has built up, and adds to the enjoyment of the experience. Director, writer, and star Andy Nyman more than holds his own against these better known names.
If the film does have any flaws it’s in the way it can’t quite escape it’s stage show origin. It’s a good looking film, but was obviously shot for a modest budget. Stylistically it reminded me of BBC’s Sherlock, but that may have been the Martin Freeman connection. The three story structure also felt designed for the stage, I haven’t seen the play, but I can imagine that where the film cuts out of the flashbacks is where there is a black out on stage. The resets also meant that there was no sense of escalation. I wanted each story to get scarier and scarier. Instead it built to the same crescendo and cut at the same volume at almost every story. I enjoyed the ending, I had clocked on to some of the stuff going on quite early, but was left satisfied with the explanation, even if it was slightly spoon fed.
Overall, this film is a great deal of fun. It’s a ride of a movie which will both scare and exhilarate in equal measure. Hopefully it will be bring about a new dawn of British horror nmovies. It does have a uniquely British sensibility to it. It’s not afraid to take risks, it’s got weird moments, the fact that these moments work is due to fantastic direction and a great cast. It perhaps wraps things up a bit to neatly though, which whilst satisfying from a story point of view, does mean that not many of the scares linger once the film has finished.