Based on the Olivier Award-nominated play, Ghost Stories is at once an old-fashioned British horror flick and yet very much not what you expect. The premise sees professional debunker Professor Phillip Goodman (co-writer/director Nyman) summoned by his hero in the field to solve the three cases he never could. Cue a trilogy of ghostly tales as told to Goodman by each subject as he seeks to find, as ever, a perfectly normal explanation.
The first, which sees Whitehouse’s nightwatchman in a derelict lunatic asylum haunted by something unseen in the dark, is actually the creepiest and most effective as a stand-alone story. Next, we get Lawther dialling up the crazed, desperate paranoia of his Black Mirror appearance to 11 as a young man disturbed by a car breakdown from hell. And lastly, Freeman’s wealthy businessman who appears to have a poltergeist in his luxury home.
In each, many traditional horror tropes are present and correct, but – while not wholly subverting them – Dyson and Nyman affectionately pay homage and poke fun. There are a few (nervous) laughs to be had, but the film is strongest when playing it straight.
While on the face of it an anthology of spooky set-pieces, Ghost Stories becomes an altogether different beast in its final act. By the end, the apparent clichés, non-sequiturs and plot holes which at the time might have been scoffed at are given explanations and new meanings. You’ll want to watch this again to spot the clues drip-fed throughout.
Sometimes betraying its stage roots, with an episodic structure, the same men who created it as a piece of theatre have done a good job of making this a more cinematic offering. Come for some neat jump scares, a game cast and a rug-pull finale – stay for the examination of the rational versus the supernatural.
CAST: Martin Freeman, Alex Lawther, Andy Nyman, Paul Whitehouse
DIRECTORS: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
WRITERS: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
SYNOPSIS: Phillip Goodman, professor of psychology and arch-skeptic, has his rationality tested to the hilt when he meets three haunted people, each with a tale more frightening and inexplicable than the last.