Film Review: Ghost Stories
This British flick is not what it seems. Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s latest foray into cinema, Ghost Stories, is a powerful adaptation of their 2010 stage collaboration of the same name. Nyman reprises his role as Professor Phillip Goodman, a paranormal sceptic, who debunks fraudulent physics on his own television show. After receiving contact from his childhood idol, Dr Charles Cameron, whom he had assumed dead, Goodman visits Cameron. Cameron explains his going into hiding on purpose due to shame over his arrogance for the paranormal, and challenges Goodman to explaining three cases that he could never debunk himself. What follows is Goodman’s spiral into confusion and an apparent psychosis as he explores three cases that all affirm the presence of supernatural forces, and alarmingly link back to his own life.
The all male cast of the film is remarkably small, reflective of its stage origins. Nyman delivers a most authentic performance as the slightly nerdy Professor Goodman, who stumbles through introducing himself and garnering the trust of the men he interviews. In each of the three cases, we see Goodman experience a slow eventual decent into a state of confusion, chaos and fear.
He is supported by strong performances from Paul Whitehouse ( The Fast Show , Alice in Wonderland) and the ever-talented Martin Freeman ( Sherlock , The Office) who demonstrates his remarkable talent for flitting between comedy to intense emotion. Alex Lawther ( Black Mirror ) delivers a standout performance, capturing the filial spirit and fears of the occult-obsessed Simon with immense skill.
The glorious cinematography style of Ole Bratt Birkeland ( American Animals, Utopia ) paints the perfect dreary picture, setting the stage in the dark British settings. Most of the shots in Ghost Stories are void of characters, but remain full of life and beautifully framed to draw the audience right into the gloom of the on-screen world. The film constantly harks back to it’s on-stage origins: monsters are created not through special effects, but by using prosthetics, costume, and smoke machines.
Ghost Stories is an ode to the age of homegrown British horror where frights are not doled out by jump-scares alone. The filmmanages to make even the biting of a biscuit seem terrifying! It twists the genre, taking a turn away from the techniques of more contemporary horror.
This is a film that does not draw fear from gore and death, but instead, instills a deeply unsettling and ultimately unresolved tension in the viewer. The story’s twists and turns leave a deeper imprint on the psyche of the audience, as a light is shone upon the unspeakable, universal monsters we all fear deep down. The film, I think will leave viewers as it left me, with chills that lasted throughout the duration, and well after the film’s conclusion.
Ghost Stories will intrigue die-hard horror and non-horror fans alike with its strong plot that forces the audience to question reality both on and off-screen. A challenging story unlike any other thriller you’ve seen before, Ghost Stories is a memorable must-see.