Paranormal investigator Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman) investigates a trio of real supernatural sightings left behind by the great paranormal debunker Charles Cameron. The surviving witnesses recount their nightmarish tales; a night watchman with an estranged daughter is haunted by the decisions of his past; a disturbed young man is hunted down by a creature in the woods; a wealthy father-to-be sees strange happenings as he awaits news of his pregnant wife. Is there a logical explanation for these spooky occurrences? Or is really the work of evil from beyond?
It’s an interesting premise, and one that found success on stage in London and Australia, where it began life as an Olivier-nominated stage play in 2010. Ghost Stories is written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, who has worked behind the scenes with illusionist Derren Brown. The film pays homage to production company Amicus’s portmanteau horror films of the sixties (Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, Torture Garden, The House That Dripped Blood and Vault of Horror), and stars some quality British talent – Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, and Alex Lawther.
The film’s opening is odd, conflicting with the tone of the rest of the film as it struggles to find its feet. The faux documentary style is scrapped early on in favour of standard thriller fare. There’s a poor attempt to integrate some character backstory, cobbled together by way of inauthentic ‘found footage’.
After a rocky start, however, the film peaks with performances by the ever-brilliant Alex Lawther and Martin Freeman. The high production value of the film pays off with a chilling atmosphere throughout, and there are some Easter eggs to keep the eagle-eyed viewer intrigued. Ghost Stories revels in the creepy, the uncanny, and is packed full of overworked horror tropes, predictability and obvious symbols of unease.
Ghost Stories remains superficial, and doesn’t dig deep enough to be a psychological thriller or pose any lasting questions. The majority of the jump scares are too predictable to cause any jumping or scaring, but one or two will catch out the seasoned viewer.
Unfortunately, the loose threads never quite tie together, and the ending is a deflated cop-out. Overall, it’s uneasy and unsettling, but will leave audiences with no clue as to why anything happened.
I rate this film 5/10.
Ghost Stories is screening at Luna Leederville from October 25.