A British horror film based on a stage play, huh? How many horror stage plays exist? I’m so curious right now! Yeah, that’s pretty much the backstory to this picture. In fact, the writers and directors of the play are the ones making this movie. So this should be… interesting, if you ask me.
The story itself looks like it’s about a man who lives to debunk TV shows that prove that ghosts exist until one day where he encounters the supernatural himself.
Here’s the cast. Starring, co-writing, and co-directing is Andy Nyman, known for writing and directing TV stuff, but has acted in THE COMMUTER (2018), STAR WARS: LAST JEDI (2017), SHAUN THE SHEEP (2015), and the upcoming JUDY (2019). In support, we have the amazing Martin Freeman (BLACK PANTHER , CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR , and the upcoming ODE TO JOY ), Paul Whitehouse (THE DEATH OF STALIN , WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT , and the upcoming THE KING OF THIEVES ), and Alex Lawther (GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN ).
Now for the crew. Nyman’s co-director and co-writer is Jeremy Dyson, known for stuff I’ve never heard of. Composing the score is Haim Frank Ilfman, known for stuff I’ve never heard of, and the upcoming THE ETRUSCAN SMILE (2018). The cinematographer is Ole Bratt Birkeland, known for stuff I’ve never heard of and upcoming films AMERICAN ANIMALS (2018) and THE LITTLE STRANGER (2018). Finally, the editor is Billy Sneddon, known for ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE (2016) and the upcoming STAN AND OLLIE (2019).
Overall, this looks like it could be interesting, but it’s hard to say. I like Freeman, of course, so that alone was going to be enough to get my ass in a seat, but I can’t say whether or not it’ll be scary, or even good. No expectations going in.
This is my honest opinion of: GHOST STORIES
The story follows Professor Phillip Goldman (Andy Nyman), a man who spends his life proving people who think they can communicate with ghosts and profit off of their grief, exposing them as frauds. One day, Phillips gets an envelope from a hero of his, named Charles Cameron who did similar things, disproving the supernatural, and who was also missing and presumed dead. Upon discovering his whereabouts, the hard-cased old man gives Phillip three case files of his that he could never disprove, and is convinced that they’re real: Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse) who encountered a ghost in an all-female insane asylum, Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther), who encountered a demon, and Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman), who encountered his dead wife.
Not bad. Not bad at all. Perfect? Hell no. But scary? Shyeah.
For those of you that don’t know, I’m usually not a big horror fan. Horror films have a tendency to follow a very stupid formula: stupid people, making stupid decisions, getting other stupid people killed. Dramatically, there’s nothing to invest in, so all you’re left with is either jump-scare porn, or gratuitous violence. While gratuitous violence can be fun for the sake of deliciously creative deaths, jump-scare porn is the bottom of the barrel. Essentially, it’s the fart joke of horror. Too easy to the point where a brain-dead monkey could do it. With ALL of that said, even during the worst of horror films, I’m always covering at least one ear. Not because I don’t like getting scared, but because the formula for a jump-scare is dead silence, and then LOUD NOISE!!! It’s annoying and the only thing it truly succeeds in doing is waking me up and annoying me, not leaving an impact. So when I say that, keep in mind that I rarely get so unnerved by what I’m watching that I literally found myself covering both of my ears during certain scenes.
Yeah, I think this movie was that freaky.
Each case that Phillip tackles is a story told in flashback by the victims who experienced something supernatural. With Tony, he was in an all-female insane asylum. We get a few clichés, like the lights turning off, objects not being where they were left, flickering flashlights, and no encounters, but there’s something about the way these occurrences are filmed that really makes them eerie. The way that the suspense is built up with minimal score and sheer quiet with carefully placed subtle sounds, and every payoff is worth it.
My first question mark is that the third haunting is a little uninspired. Without giving anything away, it’s like the one haunting is about a ghost and another is about a demon, but the third one feels like just another ghost. I thought it would get a little more creative as the haunting investigations progressed, but the final haunting was a little disappointing. But, give credit where credit is due, this was arguably better executed than the first haunting as one ghost was clearly all CGI and the other is an actor in make up. Why that is, I won’t pretend to know why, but they’re both still pretty well executed.
Overall, this was a pretty good movie and the ending certainly leaves quite an opening for fun discussions. Is the movie without flaws? No. In fact, the flaws that I didn’t mention in this review certainly hurt the film a little, but it’s hard to talk about them without giving too much away. Having said that, I do highly recommend seeing this movie. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, but if you’re looking for genuine scares from a horror film, I say you’re going to get it in spades here. I can’t say I’d own this on Blu-Ray or anything, but it’s worth seeing in theaters, if you can find it. It’s an indie film, so don’t feel bad if you don’t find it. But if not in theaters, then definitely a strong rental. Be careful of what you believe, but believe that this is a damn solid horror movie.
My honest rating for GHOST STORIES: 4/5
PS: I still want to see the original play.