Aren’t stories a way to hide our insecurities, our guilt and our self-inflicted hate for the person we have become? Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s renowned play about three supernatural stories is self-adapted into a sharp, subversive, witty, abide a bit misleading film about the mysteries of unhinged stories from the past. Tearing down the spooky interiors of their constantly engaging film, Ghost Stories is an ultimate retort of existential dread lurking inside a supernatural exterior.
Basically structured as an anthology until it rips the conventionality once and for all, the film is about three separate Ghost tales told with genuine on the nose British wit and low-key, spooky jump scares and dread. Opening with Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman himself), a debunker of all the falsehood & superstition explored in the name of the paranormal and supernatural, we slowly witness a gaping hole in his past. Though initially unclear, and cleverly wrapped until revealed, we get to see the obsession with his mentor Charles Cameron (Leonard Byrne).
Charles Cameron has often said in his documentaries that the brain manifests whatever it wishes to see almost like a bad drug high. Phillip Goodman, who has dedicated his life uncovering the false is completely balled out by Charles Cameron and his ballsy negation of the unknown. Which is why he is greatly intrigued and confused when he receives a secretive message from Cameron (supposedly from beyond the grave) about a possible existence of ghostly realm or an afterlife.
On meeting Cameron, Philip undergoes a quest to investigate three separate stories about three separate people who have in fact, by proof had discovered the presence of the supernatural. Naturally interested in proving something as strange as this to be untrue, Philip takes a journey to study the three cases in a structural anthology promising dread in every corner. Surprisingly, the film traces dread with the simple initial tone of visual comedy with spooky manifestations that work in a random order of triggering it’s shock value while never overdoing either of it.
The three set of mentally scarred men that fall into a visual throwback to “The X Files” are spooked out by the presence of a supernatural energy that has been haunting them. As Philip sits down to recount their experiences starting with Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse), a night watchman overseeing this abandoned asylum, things start to get strange for him too. He starts to slip slowly into a triggered paranoia that is initially just jitters to his disbelieving head. After getting a bit cautious by the tale of the watchman, Philip meets up with Simon (Alex Lawther – who recently shot to fame with Netflix’s The End of the F***ing World), a young boy undescribably affected by satanic goat things on his way back home some night. This encounter also leaves us and Philip with a kind of unsettling feeling that rides the thin line between being spooky and downright funny.
As soon as we get to the third story, the film starts uncovering itself. This is a place where Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s film will find a kind of split reaction from the audiences. For people who do believe that the human condition is way more scarier and ghostly than most ghost tales, will applaud the clever shift when Martin Freeman enters as the texting addicted, mumbling and wacky business-man. As he blabbers about the last key being the one that unlocks the clock, the film motions into more interesting, abide a little misleading third narrative.
That said, the directors do their best to keep the film in as engaging as it should be. The wide-angle shots witness the paranoia in our protagonists slowly manifesting itself. The film does feel like it’s trying to pull the rug as it inches towards the end but the clever plotting and a not-so-self-serious tone of the film juggles our expectations and sometimes even unpredictably overwhelms us with it.
While low-key in terms of ghostly thrills and spooky bigots, Ghost Stories is indecisively clever in wrapping your head into a dark, comic twist on the deranged dread of existentialism. A scare that is far more traumatic than most ghostly tales could ever be.