For years, mankind has pondered over the existence of ghosts, demons and the paranormal. Many have claimed to have experienced it firsthand, while others dedicate their lives and careers to debunking those experiences. It seems to be a question that no one has been able to answer or prove one way or the other, and this fear of the unknown has been the basis of a number of popular horror stories.
Based on the stage play of the same name, ‘Ghost Stories’ follows skeptic Professor Phillip Goodman’s (Nyman) investigation of three unsolved cases, each one detailing a different haunting. After meeting with his idol and fellow skeptic Charles Cameron, and feeling deflated when he begins to question his lifelong skepticism, Goodman meets with former night watchman Tony Matthews (Whitehouse), teenager Simon Rifkind (Lawther), and businessman Mike Priddle (Freeman) to learn about their firsthand experiences with the supernatural. The film is split into three segments, allowing each character to explain their case through the use of flashbacks where we get to see exactly what happened to the characters.
Throughout these flashbacks, Nyman and Dyson have utilised a number of popular horror techniques that will make you jump out of your seat, or hide behind your hands. There’s a serious feeling of unease throughout the entire film, and you have no idea what’s going to happen next. Even as an avid fan of the genre, I found myself genuinely terrified during a large portion of the film. ‘Ghost Stories’ knows exactly how to pace a horror film, and how to leave an audience uncomfortable yet unable to look away from the screen. Whilst the jump scare is inevitable, the film doesn’t overuse these and instead finds ways to build tension and fear, which actually heightens the experience because you find yourself trying to predict when something’s going to pop out at you. It leaves you on edge for the entire ninety minutes, which in my mind, is exactly what a horror film should do.
The stories told by each of the men are gripping, and the actors all do exceptional jobs of portraying their characters. Each of the men interviewed by Goodman are very different in their class backgrounds, beliefs and personalities, but are united in their adamancy that they did experience hauntings and that they left them completely shaken up afterwards. This reinforces the idea that the supernatural can target anyone, and leave anyone feeling helpless. Particular praise has to be given to Alex Lawther; after seeing him in season 3 of ‘Black Mirror’ I had high hopes, and he delivered. He’s certainly one to watch and I look forward to seeing what he gets up to next.
‘Ghost Stories’ is incredibly British in nature, mixing the right amount of dry humour and satire into what is an utterly terrifying experience overall. Other critics have said it’s the best British horror film in years, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s an incredibly gripping story that has a lot of twists and turns, and tugs at all of your heartstrings. Alongside the characters, I went through a number of emotions and felt fully invested in their lives. These are all characters that feel familiar, they’re your average human, which throws realism into the mix. Being able to identify with characters in a horror film makes your fear 100 times worse.
This film is best experienced with as little context as possible, if you walk into it completely blind, I believe you’ll get maximum enjoyment out of it. The trailers have done a great job at keeping it as vague as possible, which was a bonus. There’s nothing worse than trailers giving everything away in a few seconds. ‘Ghost Stories’ does have a twist ending, but I thought this was done brilliantly and I personally was unable to predict it. Nyman and Dyson have put so much effort into crafting an intense, thrilling, mysterious story and it’s seriously paid off. I’m now hoping ‘Ghost Stories’ will be returning to the stage soon, because I’ll be first in line for a ticket!
Lucy’s Rating: 8.0/10
Directed by: Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson
Starring: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther