LIONSGATE FILMS (2018)

 

Directors: Andy Nyman / Jeremy Dyson

 

Starring: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther

From stage to screen, Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson's Ghost Stories is the next big British horror release after recent offerings such as The Ritual and A Dark Song – both solid movies themselves and throwing staples such as The Descent, The Omen and Hellraiser into the mix only increases the quality of British offerings (let’s ignore Tales That Witness Madness, though). So, tough competition – but does Ghost Stories need to be compared to those movies? No, not at all. I do it because it should be.

 

It’s bloody brilliant.

Set in 1970’s England, the movie is a three-part anthology that connects three stories into one concurrent narrative. It follows Professor Phillip Goodman (Nyman), a psychic debunker, who is invited by a reclusive former paranormal investigator to explore three supernatural occurrences and prove their non-existence. Deciding to individually visit the three men involved – Tony (Whitehouse), Simon (Lawther) and Mike (Freeman) – the ever-sceptical Goodman has his work cut out as not everything is as it seems.

 

Crucially, Ghost Stories gets the most important aspect of a chiller spot on – it’s chilling. Jump out of your seat moments are intertwined with a growing sense of dread as each scene and story unfolds, whilst the connecting stories really work well together. The four lead performances are all top-class, with seasoned trouper Freeman stealing the show when he enters and, of course, it helps that the narrative itself is well told and the hugely satisfying conclusion is the perfect ending for a very good movie. If it’s an atmospheric nerve-jangler you want, look no further than Ghost Stories.

 

The delicious slow-burning nature of the movie works so well, especially when it comes to attempting to unravel the story – it’s always one step ahead. The writing is incisive, each story varies in tone slightly and it’s this that really ramps up the tensions. From the straight up chiller-thriller of Tony’s story to the bizarre, black comedy of Simon’s tale to the final tale from Mike, the narrative weaves and twists and gives nothing away. Through each, Nyman is excellent in the lead role – the ‘everyman’ role – with Lawther creepily effective and Freeman the show stealer. More importantly, it’ll never, ever be boring to see DJ Mike Smash giving it large to the evils that lurk on the other side.

 

Seeping out of each story is an unobtrusive but successful score that gets right under your skin – the haunting strings are a fine throwback, nicely accompanying the vintage visuals the movie delivers. The empty pub Phillip meets Tony in is pure English, but the dreariness of it complements the scene excellently, as do the grey skies above in the majority of the movie - offset this with Mike's contemporary dwellings and there's a nice dichotomy despite the shared darkness they have witnessed. There's something menacing that hangs over every scene, and that's all down to the writing, cinematography and score - it looks good and sounds good. It also made my late night journey back to the car all the more backside clenching. It looks good and sounds good. It also made my late night journey back to the car all the more backside clenching.

 

On a side note, the posters that have been released to support the movie have been superb. Do yourselves a favour and go check them out.

 

As far as creepy horror chillers go, Ghost Stories is a screaming success. You’ll squirm, jump and be trying to unravel the mystery with each scene until the finale comes and when it does, you’ll still be left satisfied as you begin piecing it all together. Remember, not everything is as it seems.

April 15th 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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