Starring: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse
Written by: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Directed by: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Distributor: Scream Factory (Shout! Factory)
Run Time: 1hr, 38 minutes
Horror anthology stories, in movies, are too few and far between these days. The days of Creepshow and Tales from the Dark Side have almost been forgotten by the general public. Thankfully, the writing-directing team of Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman have released their stage play of three ghost stories as a theatrical film. Ghost Stories originally debuted in April of 2018, however, it came and went with little fanfare. Which is often the case with independent horror that fails to connect with an audience. I missed the film in April, but the great minds at Scream Factory have released it in time for the fall.
Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman) is a debunker of the paranoia, mystics, and psychics. When one of his fellow debunkers, Charles Cameron, emerges from hiding and challenges to find fault with 3 cases that he never could, Goodman excepts the challenge. Already a great start to the anthology story setup. Usually, there is a host or a running thread to the story. To have this as an investigation makes it incredibly intriguing and sets it apart from the normal story.
First up Goodman visits a night watchman, Tony (Paul Whitehouse), who has seen the other side. The location is creepy, an old condemned correction ward that Tony has been hired to watch over. The setting is scary enough and all of us, at one time or another, have been to such a place. The great thing is, we know that there is something there, Tony, a character grounded in reality, keeps pushing us into situations where we, the audience, want to get the hell out of there. It is a great combination of scares and us talking to the screen.
I am usually leery of the second act in an anthology. The first segment has to hook you in and the third one to bring it all home. To my surprise, the ante was upped when Goodman interviews an edgy young man, Simon (Alex Lawther), who not only has a horrible accident but is plagued by even more demons. The scares are solid, but it is Lawther that convinces you everything in the shadows is really there.
Our third and final tale involves the one actor that most people will have heard of, Martin Freeman (Black Panther). Freeman plays Mike, a wealthy former banker that is plagued by the horror of a newborn child. It is here where the horror elevates and everything comes crashing down on Nyman’s Professor. Freeman delivers a solid performance that keeps us guessing.
!!!SPOILERS AHEAD!!! If you are intrigued enough, skip the following section!
There is always something that one cannot like about a film, here it is a casting choice. Martin Freeman is clearly the selling point of this movie. A hook for younger and older audiences to see the film. He was in the highest grossing film of 2018, Black Panther, he is on the BBC’s Sherlock as Dr. Watson, and genre fans know him as Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit Trilogy. However, in casting him in as both Charles Cameron and Mike the hat is tipped that there is something else going on with Goodman’s story. Those of us that know Freeman’s voice and mannerisms will clearly see through a mediocre makeup job. In casting a different actor in the role, “the clincher moment” might have had more of shock. Instead, it just resided there and ruined said moment.
All in all Ghost Stories was different. A slow, methodical horror story that supplied the right amount of "less is more" scares that the genre rarely delivers anymore. This will be one to watch every year come fall. A break in from the Universal Monsters and the Slasher Films which usually dominate the screen.