Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: Offensive language & horror
Andy Nyman as Professor Phillip Goodman
Martin Freeman as Mike Priddle
Alex Lawther as Simon Rifkind
Paul Whitehouse as Tony Matthews
Director: Andy Nyman, Jeremy Dyson
Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman) devotes his life to exposing phony psychics and fraudulent supernatural shenanigans. His skepticism soon gets put to the test when he receives news of three chilling and inexplicable cases — disturbing visions in an abandoned asylum, a car accident deep in the woods and the spirit of an unborn child. Even scarier — each of the macabre stories seems to have a sinister connection to the professor’s own life.
I had been hearing about Ghost Stories for a while. All I knew about it really was that it was a horror movie and that Martin Freeman was part of the cast. I was hearing some good things about it, so I was definitely interested in checking it out. Ghost Stories wasn’t very scary but it was actually really good and I had quite a bit of fun watching it.
Ghost Stories is actually based off the play of the same name, which was written by the directors and writers of this movie. I learned that after watching the movie and they seemed to adapt it really well, because while watching it, it didn’t seem very play-like, even though now I can sort of see how it could be a play. The movie is about an hour and 40 minutes and I was entertained throughout, though despite it being a horror movie, wasn’t really scared. It wasn’t that much of a problem for me though as I went into it expecting a fun horror movie instead of a truly scary experience. The first two acts mostly spends time with the main character Phillip as well as the other 3 characters that he talks to, and features a flashback with these individual characters and their ghostly/scary experiences. A lot of the tension and scares are reduced even further because you know that all 3 of the characters made it out at least physically and alive, but it’s whatever. The first story with Paul Whitehouse is closest to being scary out of the 3, with a pretty effective atmosphere. The second story with Alex Lawther wasn’t really the least bit scary but I had fun watching it. There’s also some bits that are goofy and ridiculous (one bit featuring some goofy effects). However at one point Lawther gives one of the most priceless reactions in a horror movie to something scary, so I guess it was worth that at least. The third story with Martin Freeman is pretty good as well, and it’s mostly Freeman’s performance that made it work for me. Now the third act takes a completely different turn in the story, which will probably divide some people, some will like it, some won’t. Personally, it worked for me. Up to that point I was watching the movie but was just sort of following it and found it just decent. From that point however, the movie just got a lot more interesting. With that said, I do understand if people find it to be overly and needlessly complicated, personally I really liked this sudden change.
The lead actor of the movie is one of the directors and writers (of both the movie and the play), Andy Nyman. He plays someone who basically debunks fraudulent psychics and explains paranormal events. We’ve seen this sort of character in horror movies before, so it’s really nothing special. However Nyman plays the role rather well, it also does help that one of the writers of the play is playing one of the major parts, so he’s really familiar with the character. He also gets a lot of moments in the third act to particularly shine. The 3 actors playing the people involved with the cases were also good, and the characters are nicely distinctly different from each other. Paul Whitehouse and Alex Lawther are great, however Martin Freeman is a particular standout. He’s especially great later in the movie, and he’s able to let loose, playing a type of character that he’s not really played before.
Ghost Stories is directed by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, and their work on the movie is solid. When it comes to the writers of plays adapting their own movies to the big screen, they can often feel very play-like (like Una and Thoroughbreds), not that it’s a bad thing necessarily. However they did a good job at making it not feeling like that. The whole look of the movie was great, not just the cinematography, but also the lighting, the production and set design, all of it really works well. None of the scares really hit home at all, most of them are just jumpscares. However there aren’t like so many of them that they got obnoxious or anything like that.
Ghost Stories isn’t going to rank among one of the best horror movies this decade or even this year (we’ve had a lot of fantastic horror movies this year), but on its own it’s a pretty solid and fun flick. The performances are really good, the direction is solid, and I was entertained throughout the running-time. If you like horror movies, then you should definitely check it out, I’m sure you’ll find something about it to like.