Ghost Stories Movie Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Released by IFC Films
Written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman
2018, 97 minutes, Not Rated
Released theatrically on April 20th, 2018
Andy Nyman as Professor Goodman
Martin Freeman as Mike Priddle
Alex Lawther as Simon Rifkind
Paul Whitehouse as Tony Matthews
Ghost Stories is a broodingly dark and surprisingly funny trilogy centering on Professor Phillip Goodman as he searches for truth in the paranormal. Having made his name debunking afterlife mediums, he is contacted by his professional idol, Charles Cameron, to investigate three cases that baffled Cameron during his own work. Over the course of his analysis, Goodman finds that perhaps there are, in fact, things inexplicable in this world.
The story sets itself up as a show-within-a-show but struggles to maintain that perspective as the film progresses. It isn't a huge loss, as it isn't pivotal to the narrative, but it does seem to be an unnecessary detail shoe-horned in to fit with the trend of mockumentaries. That being said, by the second vignette is clipping by at a pace that keeps the viewer engaged no matter the style.
It's needless to say the acting is brilliant, the cast is comprised of accomplished stars like Alex Lawther from The End of the Fucking World, and Martin Freeman from The Hobbit, so I can skip that part; you already know they're going to be great.
The cinematography is an unusual combination of Wes-Anderson-centered shots with saturated color and grey-tone off-center landscape shots, but it works for the storytelling. I was really intrigued to see how Ghost Stories has the characters witness paranormal activity. There is a particular scene where the focus is kept on the actor in the foreground and the creepy stuff stays out of focus in the background for the duration of the activity; it is an usual tactic and works really well.
The stories themselves are tragic and creepy, as the best horror tales are. The trouble happens when they are strung together. Whether the clues are pointing to religious guilt, spiritual awakening, or just the torments of a ruined mind, it's not easy to follow with a theological education. While I laughed out loud and jumped a lot during the individual stories, joining them for the finale isn’t seamless. The overall arc makes sense, and the process of the union is exciting, but once revealed in its entirety, it loses a lot of the thrill of the independent pieces.
Despite any of that, Ghost Stories is a solid arthouse horror movie worth watching. Go creep yourself out.