Directors: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Starring: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther
Words – Carly Stevenson
Adapted by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman from their popular stage play, Ghost Stories is a sharp horror anthology in three chapters presided over by Dr Goodman – a professor of Parapsychology whose scepticism of the supernatural is gradually unravelled by three unexplained cases.
Unlike the stage play, which is framed by Goodman giving a lecture on ghost stories, the film opens with him debunking a sham clairvoyant on live television. Shortly after, Goodman receives a message from his childhood hero – a missing TV personality and professional cynic – who challenges him to reopen the three cases that extinguished his hubris. Those familiar with Nyman’s work alongside Derren Brown may have an inkling of where this story is heading, but fear not; Ghost Stories is far from predictable.
The film packs in plenty of jump scares but it also produces fear of a different order: the pervasive air of psychological unease hangs over you like mist and lingers long after the final, delightful twist.
Reprising his role as Professor Goodman, Nyman leads a small but strong cast of Very British Actors. Paul Whitehouse plays a night watchman who has a disturbing encounter during a graveyard shift at a former women’s mental institution, Alex Lawther shines as a dysfunctional teen who has a terrifying experience while driving his parents’ car without a license, and Martin Freeman plays a retired city trader whose affluent lifestyle is overturned by a familiar poltergeist.
The stories glimmer with uncanny potential and the entire film retains a distinctly theatrical feel. There are moments that teeter on the absurd, but isn’t that a hallmark of horror? Ghost Stories is, undoubtedly, all about the big reveal, yet it’s the seemingly unimportant, subtler images that leave an unsettling trace once the magic trick has been explained.