Ghost Stories (15) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, UK, 2017, 98 mins

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

Review by Carol Allen

The title of the film tells you the genre immediately – or does it?   These are ghost stories certainly but ones which take you in an unexpected direction.

At first this looks like it might be a 21st century version of those self-contained, short story horror movies from the olden days packaged with someone like the late Peter Cushing linking them together, as in say, “Dr Terror’s House of Horrors” (1965).

Professor Philip Goodman (Andy Nyman) is a professional debunker of psychic myths, ghost stories and such.   His hero is one Charles Cameron, another sceptic who disappeared years ago and is presumed dead.  But then Goodman is summoned to a meeting with Cameron, who is not dead at all but living in hiding and who has changed his mind about these psychic matters.  He gives Goodman three files – cases that have convinced him about the existence of the supernatural – and challenges his acolyte to investigate them for himself.

So we have our three ghost stories.   First up is Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse), night watchman at a former insane asylum, where he encounters the ghosts of the long dead inmates who were abused there.  Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther) has a terrifying experience when his car breaks down in the middle of a spooky forest.  And lastly there is Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman), a cocky and filthy rich city trader, who appears to be haunted by the poltergeist of his yet to be born child.

Directors Jeremy Dyson and Nyman himself use all the horror film tricks of the trade to good effect – menacing music, gloomy lighting and sudden shocks – but the stories themselves are unsatisfying and unfinished.   We find out why, as the film then takes an unpredictable turn into a complex and surreal nightmare, where Goodman is no longer the cynical interrogator but is at the centre of unsettling and then terrifying events he can neither control or explain.

Nyman is good as the professional sceptic, holding it all together and it’s interesting to see Whitehouse in a role where he is not looking for to make us laugh.  Those first two stories however are pretty much unoriginal, tried and tested horror movie material.  Once Freeman’s character comes on the scene though, we can only expect the unexpected and things get really interesting and edge of the seat.

The film is based on a stage play, where the producers asked the audience to “keep the secrets of Ghost Stories”.   You are asked to do the same with the film, so as not to spoil it for others.