Ghost Stories, the film adaptation of the stage-play of the same name, written and directed by Andy Nyman (primarily known for his acting in projects such as Severance and Dead Set) and Jeremy Dyson (the one from The League of Gentlemen who tends to stay behind the camera), is an astounding debut into film-making. A love letter to classic British horror anthologies from the likes of Amicus and Hammer Productions, the film is accomplished to the point that it completely transcends its peers.
Professor Goodman (Nyman), a paranormal investigator and sceptic who makes a living debunking supernatural frauds, hoaxes and misunderstandings, is invited to meet his childhood hero, fellow paranormal investigator Charles Cameron. Cameron presents him with the files pertaining to three cases he could never solve, asking Nyman to disprove them, having himself concluded that they can only be real.
What follows is, mostly, a fairly conventional portmanteau dynamic where Professor Goodman interviews each of the three casefile subjects before we watch their stories unfold in flashback. Ghost Stories is an intentionally confusing film at times and one that embraces an ethereal quality over any sense of realism. The end result sits somewhere between an extremely accomplished haunted house fun-fair attraction and the sort of nightmare that forces you to turn the light on for a few minutes after you wake up.
The film attempts to inject some emotional resonance and depth into its proceedings towards the end, which doesn’t work nearly as well as when it’s operating as a purely technical exercise in generating scares. That said, it’s a commendable effort to create something more than just a disposable adrenaline rush, and given how effortlessly the rest of the film flitters from intense jump-scares to manic, Evil-Dead-esque energy to slow, brooding, Jamesian dread, it’s very easy to forgive these shortcomings.
Nyman is great in the lead and Martin Freeman (playing one of the three case subjects) is his usual high-quality self. Of particular note here is a surprisingly powerful performance from Paul Whitehouse - usually known for broad comedy - and yet another phenomenal genre performance from Alex Lawther who, if this film is any indication, is at the very beginning of a remarkable career.
The Blu-Ray features some fairly interesting, if somewhat typical, making of featurettes as well as a very pleasant commentary track from Nyman and Dyson. There are also a couple of more unusual features such as one in which Nyman, Dyson and the rest of the cast are filmed undertaking a classic Rorschach test.
Most importantly, the film’s gorgeous visuals and meticulous sound design are preserved perfectly, which is particularly important for a film of this nature, where dialogue is less important than the moments where the torch batteries cut out.
GHOST STORIES / DIRECTOR: ANDY NYMAN, JEREMY DYSON / SCREENWRITER: ANDY NYMAN, JEREMY DYSON / STARRING: MARTIN FREEMAN, ALEX LAWTHER, ANDY NYMAN, PAUL WHITEHOUSE, KOBNA HOLDBROOK-SMITH / CERT: 15 / RELEASE DATE: 27TH AUGUST 2018