Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson (director)
06 April 2018 (released)
04 April 2018
This could have been a very short and simple review, as possibly anything that this writer says has the potential to be a spoiler. But declaring ‘just go and see it’ wouldn't really do.
Based on their successful play, writers and directors Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson have adapted it for the screen. This writer saw the play many years ago, enjoyed it but frankly can’t remember too much about it so can’t comment on how faithful it is. However, the play’s format of linking stories with an overriding narrative is in the tradition of the popular Amicus portmanteau films of the 1960’s.
Professor Philip Goodman (Andy Nyman) is lecturer with an interest in the supernatural and ghosts in so much as he doesn’t believe in them. He has set about trying to debunk the people who claim to be mediums preying on the vulnerable and gullible. However, a blast from his past sends him to a ramshackle caravan where he is challenged to investigate three unexplained cases and decide if they are genuine or not.
Sceptical as ever, Goodman sets out to interview the ‘victims’. The first features Paul Whitehouse as Tony Matthews, a man completely traumatised by his experience as a factory night watchman, that he’s barely sociable. The second has Alex Lawthor as Simon Rifkind, in a state of complete mental breakdown as he recounts his story of a drive in the woods. The third he is out in the countryside with the wealthy and smug Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman) whose life and family has been turned upside down by a poltergeist. Not convinced by any Goodman then starts to experience things from his own background and childhood that trouble and eventually reveal.
Taking the stories on their own, the first is probably the strongest having the grimiest location, with a classical set up of lights failing, shadows and jump scare. Paul Whitehouse is disturbing as a man haunted by what he has seen. The next two aren’t quite as effective though they have their moments as they stray into the supernatural and out and out horror. Martin Freeman though is excellent his familiar mannerisms inflected with a palpable fear, denting his dapper facade.
There are some very unsettling sequences but the horror conveyed isn’t just supernatural, for some it’s everyday racism and anti-Semitism, bullying and cowardice which in some respects are as difficult to explain as the weird goings on. The film delves into these areas, its disturbing and doesn’t offer any easy answers.
But overall this is a lot of fun with the writers playing a game, very effectively using images, sound and light and it’s up to the viewer how far they want to tax themselves. Ghost Stories is a multi-layered film probably best approached with an open and relaxed mind. If things come to light, ‘bravo’, equally there’s so much to be enjoyed from just revelling in the creepiness of it all.