Ghost Stories (2017)

We have to be very careful what we choose to believe.

Dir. Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman

Runtime: 98 minutes

Rating: 15

Starring: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther

Direct and written by Dyson and Nyman this 2017 film is based on a stage play by the same name, which was also created by the pair in 2010. This British supernatural horror works as an anthology of tales which are wrapped up by another story, and it feels like an Amicus Production film of the 1960’s.

The hardest thing about writing this review is going to be giving away no spoilers… so here goes…

Nyman plays Professor Goodman, whose life has been devoted to debunking fraudulent psychics to stop people’s lives being ruined the same way his family was affected in his youth. He receives an offer from a long-disappeared inspiration of his, Charles Cameron, a famous paranormal investigator from the 1970’s. Now old and sick, Cameron asks Goodman to investigate 3 cases that he couldn’t disprove from his career – cases that have haunted him.

Case one is Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse). He was haunted by a young girl while working as a nightwatchman at a disused asylum. He put it down to guilt that was brought on after his wife died, and after he stopped visiting his daughter who is suffering locked-in syndrome in a hospital.

Case two is Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther). Teenager Simon has a bad relationship with his parents, which Goodman assumes is the reason why Simon suffered visions of a monster trying to kill him when his car broke down in the woods one night.

Case three is Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman). He thinks he is being haunted by the poltergeist of his dead wife, who dies in childbirth which he didn’t attend.

The wrap around elements will become obvious throughout, if not at the end – but one that audiences will definitely see crop up in the hooded figure.

Summary in 180 characters

Supernatural debunker attempts to resolve a case that one of his heroes failed to. He agrees to meet 3 people but also has his own life to live – sort of.

If you are a fan of British horror films then the construct of this film will feel familiarly like an old Amicus film. The stories themselves might not be that surprising or difficult to work out too. There are twists, turns, and revelations on show – but unfortunately for a seasoned horror fan like me – it did not work. I had figured it all out within the first 15-20 minutes. With it worked out, I was left to watch what happened to see if I was right, and unfortunately, I was. Getting to the end was a little slow, the pace was not brilliant, and the ending was not much to write home about.

Despite the predictability I found this to be still fairly enjoyable in parts. It is a very distinctly English, horror film that uses atmosphere and dialogue to keep attention and drive the plot. It has some lovely northern scenery on show, from Humberside, to Leeds and Bradford too. Having lived a lot of my life in Yorkshire, it was lovely to see familiar scenery on show. I was particularly impressed to see Hornsea in the feature as that is close to my old stomping ground of Preston (near Hull).

Regarding the acting, it was all ok-ish. Paul Whitehouse was the biggest surprise for me. Usually more at home with comedy I found his portrayal of Tony Matthews to be chilling and haunting. Freeman’s performance is of a yuppy that I have seen in other titles before so that did not do much for me. And while Andy Nyman does well in the lead role, he does occasionally come across as a bit flat and cheesy. While he might do well on stage with this kind of performance, in a feature film it did not always carry across brilliantly for me.

Despite any negatives you may perceive from me in this review, the film is still ok, but more average than great. It is probably something a family can watch, as long as the younger family members are teenagers rather than toddlers. I found this film on terrestrial TV late one night, and that is likely to be where it stays. I cannot see this becoming a cult classic like other British horror. I didn’t get the urge to rush to re-watch it, so for me it doesn’t have much of a shelf-life. Still though, it’s harmless enough.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/10)

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