The bar being placed at a higher point with horror films like 2017’s Get Out and the Australian classic The Babadook from 2014, I had read several reviews for Ghost Stories and they have been overwhelmingly positive for this film. It has been playing in select cities and at certain prestigious film festivals but it started out as a play in England. Writers and directors Andy Nyman (who also stars as the lead character) have brought their collection of horror stories to the big screen but for me, with limited success.
Andy Nyman stars as Professor Phillip Goodman, a skeptical man whose has taken it upon himself to debunk theories of the supernatural, proove that people who can communicate with dead are charlatans and basically, deny anything of fact that comes from the supernatural realm. As the film opens, he shows he is a very clever and able man to take this task on. But when he receives a mysterious packaging from a fellow naysayer challenging Goodman’s hypothesis, the good professor jumps at the chance.
Told as a series of flashbacks and as short stories, the film starts out promising enough with a security guard at a dilapidated mental institution. It then continues on with a young man who had a horrific encounter in the middle of nowhere after his car breaks down. The last one and probably the most bizarre and affecting stars Martin Freeman as a wealthy individual whose wife and child both died during childbirth. The last act of the film delves into the professor’s childhood and shows that all of the stories are linked to the professor.
So far I am with Ghost Stories. It has a quiet creepiness with excellent lighting, editing and able direction. But after about thirty minutes, Ghost Stories began to unwind for me. The stories are set up well and told in effective manner, but there is no real payoff for any of them. Yes, there is a sincere effort to make something original and I appreciated Ghost Stories’ uneasy tone and mood which will sustain some people but the real meat of these stories is very thin.
The film does have some great cinematography by Ole Bratt Birkeland which goes well with the sparse lighting, an intentionally drab color palate and Billy Sneddon’s editing. I even enjoyed Haim Frank Ilfman’s Gothic sounding score. All of the elements for a great horror film are here, but the script is so lazy that I lost interest and everything else seems to be just a formality. Ghost Stories is all about the setup and nothing else. After a while, the film becomes monotonous and bland; indistinguishable from other horror films. There are no characters that I connected to and the script by writer and directors Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman is rather underwhelming. The tag line is “The brain sees what it wants to see” but the film does very little with it.
As I said, the film’s tone and mood will be enough for some people but, there is no arch for any of these characters that we are supposed to care about so whatever realizations they have are pretty much meaningless. All of the elements for a great horror film are here, but the script is so lazy that I lost interest and everything else seems to be just a formality. It has its moments but they are few and far between. If you want true terror or terror with some humor then The Babadook and Get Out are what you are looking for. These films have meaningful characters with depth and observations that are made about human nature. Theses films have something to say about human nature. Ghost Stories tries to say something but ends up mute on the subject.
Ghost Stories – ** out of 5
Ghost Stories – Rated R for language, violence and gore
Ghost Stories – Run time is 97 minutes
Ghost Stories is now playing in select cities and is available On Demand. Check your local listings for times, locations and availability nearest you.