FILM REVIEW: GHOST STORIES
GHOST STORIES is the latest addition to the ever popular anthology sub-genre. The format for this type of film is comprised of a few short films, sometimes with a common thread (0r not), segmented by a wraparound portion that acts as the intro, chapter dividers and the conclusion. Sometimes the wraparound is used as a palette cleanser like we saw with the film XX. There is no story to tell per se, but more of a beautiful visual sequence to signify the end of one story and the beginning of the next. Then there is the wildly popular V/H/S where the wrap around acts as the catalyst for the short films that proceed. GHOST STORIES is designed as just that. Often times this part of the film is underdeveloped but in GHOST STORIES, much like the rest of the film, it is carefully thought out and is absolutely critical to the storytelling.
Our wraparound tells the story of Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman) who is investigating three supernatural cases that remained unsolved and were delegated to him by Dr. Cameron. Dr. Cameron vanished from public view and everyone has assumed he is long dead. He is not, and is desperate to get some truth behind these three cases that defy logic, science and reality.
Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse) is an affable but volatile middle class 50-something punter. Not the type of bloke you would think would believe or be so profoundly affected by a supernatural encounter. One thing is clear and that’s that even the mere mention of the incident makes him uncomfortable. Tony worked as a night watchman at an old run down abandoned building that once was, as Tony so eloquently worded it “A nuthouse for women. Mad birds running about the place. Old brasses, drunks, young girls who got themselves knocked up. Newborns that nobody wanted. Thrown away, miserable”. How inviting! One night while Tony was on duty there were a couple of pretty clear indicators that he was not alone. Like any rational person he deduces that someone is mucking about, trying to get a rise out of him. As he fearfully ventures through the dark ruins of the building he becomes more and more isolated and even more panicked. Sounds like all the elements of a great short right? It is except for one key element….the payoff at the end. I was expecting a bigger payoff ending. The pacing and direction of this segment was so on point that I my anticipation for the big reveal ending was at an all time high. Maybe that is on me but I did feel that the subtastic ending to this great short film was kind of a let down. With that being said, a horror anthology doesn’t want to, pardon my language, ” blow it’s load” too early so in the grand scheme of the film this is a great warm up.
CASE 2 – Simon Rifkind
Now, this is where the film, pardon my language again, truly blows it’s load. I mean that in the best way possible because this segment was my absolute favorite and the standout of the film. This case is about young Simon Rifkind, played by Alex Lawther. Lawther has had a fantastic year not only with GHOST STORIES but he starred in an excellent show called THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD. If you haven’t watched it, get on that! Lawthers performance here is one of the creepiest things I have seen and definitely worth the hype this film is getting. To get into details about the plot would be taking away from the experience the viewer gets and the ride it goes on so I am going to let the film do the talking in regards to that. For me, this was what committed me to the film and really set the bar for what was yet to come.
CASE 3 – Mike Priddle
First off, the poster art above is for Mike Priddle’s (played by Martin Freeman) segment and it is what initially sold me on the film. Despite the art aspect of film these days not being as prominent as it used to be, it is still regularly the hook that snares me. This film and it’s artwork is a prime example of exactly that. with that being said, my expectations for this segment were wild.
Mike Priddle is a white collar day trader. He lives in a spectacularly spacious and endlessly chic house. The kind of home that’s aesthetic is one that is not supposed to be lived in, only admired. Not exactly inline with what people would assume from the home of a pregnant wife and expecting family. Trouble with the pregnancy lands Maria in the best clinic money can buy. With Maria in good hands Mike goes home to attend to paperwork etc. Mike is awoken by the sounds of commotion in the house. Like a mirror image of the case of Tony Matthews, Mike horrifyingly realizes that he is not alone. Again, just like the first chapter, the payoff was just not there for me. The buildup was so great and it ended on a really flat note. But hang on, we aren’t finished…..
As per the anthology format, this is the part where they tie the film up with the final portion of the wraparound. GHOST STORIES without a doubt makes the best use of a wrap-around I have ever seen. It is very very clever. It does not play by the traditional rules of using this time to signify the conclusion of the film. In fact, it actually acted as a story line springboard. It really tipped me in favor of the film and is what made me want to see it again. And again. And again.
I would have given this a 4 tombstone rating because I liked it more the second time round. It’s a film that impresses with age and has longevity. The downside is that I needed to invest that extra time to fully feel the films impact. It is a great British horror and a strong anthology film. I would recommend giving it a chance, but go in with an open mind, a blank slate and no expectations if you want to fully absorb this film.
“GHOST STORIES is a great British horror that impresses with age and has longevity”
GHOST STORIES opens in theatres and cable VOD today!
3 1/2 Tombstone rating out of 5