As a horror movie, Ghost Stories is – on the surface – a bit tamer than its big-budget Hollywood counterparts. But even though it often relies on jump scares, the film still manages to be not just maddeningly clever, but increasingly disturbing – and not in ways that viewers new to the story will expect. Like a magic trick, the start is easy enough to follow but, before you know it, the tablecloth has been pulled out from under you.
Though the feature has been adapted from the successful, ten-year-old stage play of the same name, past audiences have done well to keep the secrets of the plot to themselves. Suffice it to say that the narrative follows Professor Phillip Goodman, a renowned documentary filmmaker who investigates and debunks cases of the paranormal. But when the academic sets about solving three as yet unexplained cases of supernatural events, he finds his worldview challenged by these very different tales of things that have gone bump in the night.
Alex Lawther is quietly brilliant as a neurotic post-adolescent living with his parents – and the trauma of a supernatural encounter in the forest. His comedic timing and delivery are impeccable, and yet viewers can’t keep their eyes off of him, each one waiting to see where the tension he creates with his intense portrayal of fear is leading before he begins to give an account of the haunting experience. Martin Freeman – the star power behind the film – is extremely convincing as the devilish banker who chillingly recounts story number three.
Meanwhile, Professor Goodman is played very effectively by co-writer and co-director of both the feature and the play, Andrew Nyman. As a previous collaborator with Darren Brown, it’s no surprise during his time at the helm (a position he shares with his long-time friend Jeremy Dyson) he manages to incorporate some clever visual trickery. While the budget for Ghost Stories may have been smaller than that of the Hollywood mega-corps that tried to initially woo the team, the pair have managed to manipulate certain flaws in human perception to an occasionally outstanding effect. The result is an intriguing and keenly-crafted piece of cinema that fools you into thinking it’s straightforward, but demands repeated viewings.
Ghost Stories is released nationwide on 6th April 2018.
Watch the trailer for Ghost Stories here: