I have to admit that “Ghost Stories” was something of a surprise this year, because I’m shocked so many people liked it, while I just didn’t. Surely, “Ghost Stories” is a beautifully directed film but it builds on a momentum that it can’t deliver. It seems to be leading up to one big bang, and in the end when that big bang finally arrives, it’s more like a trick gun with the flag that reads “Bam!” The message is also pretty heavy handed and feels tacked on. Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s “Ghost Stories” is a beautifully directed film with excellent cinematography, and brilliant sound design, it’s just all glimmer and no substance.
An adaptation of the stage play, “Ghost Stories” is a anthology horror film based around separate tales of ghosts and other paranormal anomalies. Andy Nyman plays Professor Phillip Goodman, a man who has devoted his life to defrauding alleged psychics and paranormal investigators for his television show. He’s put to the test however when a professor he thought had disappeared calls him to his home and hands him three case files. Said files contain stunning supernatural occurrences he’s never been able to explain, that have made him a bonafide believer. As he investigates he begins to realize something about himself, in the process. There’s an inherent menace that begins to develop as we meet Phillip Goodman, and he learns about the case files, but the wheels all about fall off by the finale.
The first and best tale of the trio involves a night watchman who is patrolling an abandoned asylum that burned to the ground years prior. Hunkered down in a small security booth with his own growing sense of paranoia, he begins to realize he’s not actually alone in the asylum. If “Ghost Stories” had kept up this feeling of dread and terror, I might have ended up loving the film overall. The plays with darkness and light, the sense of paranoia and the final scene in the tale are fantastic. From there a young man hiding in a room tells Phillip of a fateful night where, while driving deep in the woods he’s confronted by an unseen force that scares him near hysterics. Finally there’s the tale of a former banker, played by Martin Freeman, who is visited by the poltergeist of his unborn child.
Along the way, Andrew Nyman begins connecting the plot threads to character Phillip, but a lot of it is left dangling and unresolved. Once we finally hit the big finale that is intended to make sense of the tales, “Ghost Stories” feels like it has no actual idea how to close the film altogether. Instead there’s some heavy handed, overly dramatic and weird closer that fails to make sense of a lot of the film’s bigger plot details. Why was the young man hiding in his room and sitting in the heat? Who was living above him prompting pure horror from him? Where does the story end, and Goodman’s fate begin? Are these tales concoctions of Goodman’s own imagination, or are they actual ghosts haunting his psyche? “Ghost Stories” just didn’t click with me; I love a good horror anthology film, it’s just too bad “Ghost Stories” isn’t it.
Unlike the UK Blu-Ray, the release from Shout! Factory comes with a barebones release. If you want to know about the production, or even glance at image galleries, you’re plumb out of luck.