Ghost Stories (2017)

ghost1.jpgThere are some genuinely creepy moments, and old-fashioned scares, in this horror anthology movie- indeed, for awhile I was pleasantly reminded of those old Amicus movies that I loved years ago. Initially I was wrong-footed by a titles/prologue sequence that seems to break the fourth wall and suggested that the film was a found-footage/pseudo-documentary piece- it’s only after this that the film settles down into a traditional film format that I was able to relax into it. I don’t know if this distracted others or if it was just me, but there’s something wrong with all this and it handicaps the film somewhat- I’m surprised the film-makers didn’t revisit it (there’s stuff going on in camcorder footage of a Jewish celebration and ensuing family discord that seems to have no impact on subsequent events at all).

Once the film slips into traditional horror-story territory it improves no end, and after seeing so many American horrors,  it’s lovely to see UK characters and locations in an old-fashioned horror story, in which very real, very ordinary people get caught up in genuinely unsettling situations. The film and its three seperate tales (albeit they are not quite as seperate as we are led to believe) are structured around the investigations of Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman, who co-wrote and directed the film with Jeremy Dyson). Goodman has devoted his career to exposing phony psychics and fraudulent supernatural claims. A childhood hero of his, Charles Cameron, who has been missing for years, suddenly contacts Goodman and tasks him with three cases of ghostly goings-on that cannot be explained: a night watch-man’s terrifying experience in an abandoned asylum, a young man’s car accident deep in some creepy woods and a father being haunted by the malevolent spirit of his unborn child. 

The tension during the horrific tales as they unfold is very well done- the film is not at all gory but is genuinely creepy and certainly it’s a refreshing nod to old-school horror films, where mood and atmosphere is superior to graphic excess. Other than that off-putting opening I really enjoyed the film and its ‘twist’ at the end, while perhaps not completely surprising or convincing, certainly honours the feel of those Amicus anthologies. Its a great old-fashioned ghost movie, and there’s nothing wrong with that- indeed, I’d love to see more of this kind of stuff. In just  the same way as science-fiction and fantasy films have become too persistent with graphically ‘wowing’ us by literally showing everything onscreen in CGI spectacle, so have horror films been persistent lately in graphically detailing all their gory horrors onscreen. Suggestion is sometimes a more powerful tool, no matter the CGI trickery that film-makers possess today.

3 thoughts on “Ghost Stories (2017)

  1. Matthew Mckinnon

    What am I missing here?
    Your review prompted me to watch this, as it had had fairly decent word of mouth generally. But it was terrible.
    Alarm bells were ringing early on with the big sweeping BBC Drama music, and then things got worse. Paul Whitehouse is always good value for money, but he just ended up playing a standard Whitehouse geezer. There were mildly creepy moments but also the same flickering/stroboscopic monster reveals I’ve seen a million times over in recent horror movies.

    The kid in the woods with the demon was farcical and theatrical, and by the time Martin Freeman turned up in his ridiculous three roles (got to get the maximum use of your star actor), it had given up completely on being a ghost story and turned into a join-the-dots drama. When none of your three stories live up to their ‘most terrifying, unexplained cases!’ billing or make any sense (or even conclude beyond the predictable shock scare), it doesn’t clear anything up to then abandon it all in favour of a sudden swerve into ‘serious’ drama: you’ve still left all that mess on the table.

    I blame you for 90 wasted minutes of my ever-shorter life.

    1. Hey, blame the film-makers, don’t shoot the messenger, ha ha. I probably enjoyed it more for its throwbacks to the Amicus anthologies that I enjoyed so much (cheesy that they were) but have become very out-of-vogue for so long, but I definitely appreciated some of the tension and general creepiness of some of the sequences.

      I suspect some of the hype (from myself) may have impacted your enjoyment. I hadn’t even heard of the film until I noticed it surface on some people’s ‘Best of 2018’ lists and then saw it up on Netflix and thought I’d give it a shot and, not really expecting a lot, came away rather surprised. Oh well, different strokes for different folks I guess.

      Anyway, I owe you 90 minutes. Hopefully I’ll make it up to you with a future recommendation having a better result.

  2. Pingback: The 2019 list – the ghost of 82

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