I missed Ghost Stories (2017) while I was at SXSW. Since it was playing at the Florida Film Festival, I was determined to catch it despite its very late start times. Writers and directors Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman have crafted a film reminiscent of Tales from the Crypt, which manages to be both fun and horrifying. It’s framed as an anthology, as one character investigates three stories in an effort to debunk the supernatural claims.
Ghost Stories was a blast from beginning to end.
Professor Goodman (Nyman) has devoted much of his life to disproving all things classified as supernatural. He is approached by a peer and is given three files that Goodman is told may change his outlook on things. In an attempt to not be made to look foolish, Goodman reaches out to each of the men in the files to hear their stories.
It would have been possible for this film to just be three short movies under the Ghost Stories title like many anthology films that have come before it. Instead, Dyson and Nyman stitch them together, giving Professor Goodman his own story that has an unbelievably fulfilling arc by the end. That character and the story crafted around him is what makes this film stand out from the other anthology titles. Additionally, the stories shared are either extremely frightening, funny or both.
The first story centers on Tony (Paul Whitehouse), who was a night watchman at an old mental institution. There are many scares during this sequence, and it ended with me squirming in my seat. Professor Goodman then travels to meet Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther). Lawther gives an amazing performance (by the way, watch End of the F’ing World) here, and at one point is crying while smiling like a madman in an attempt to prove he’s not crazy, while clearly questioning his own sanity. His story received quite a bit more comedy, but still managed to make the crowd jump. The best performance was saved for last, and Martin Freeman comes in and steals the movie. While Mike Priddle’s (Freeman) story isn’t as scary, Priddle is the most compelling character. Where the movie goes after hearing all three tales is where the film’s true brilliance gets the opportunity to shine. The ending left me smiling and babbling like a crazy person, and the walk to the car was full of excited discussion with my daughter.
Although I didn’t get us home until 2:00 a.m., Ghost Stories made the lack of sleep worth it. It’s the kind of horror film that I find myself absolutely loving. There were parts that had me genuinely shaking, while moments later relieving the tension with bouts of nervous laughter. At one point, I accidentally shouted “What the…”, and the guy next to me looked over and just smiled at how the film had pulled such a reaction. Ghost Stories earns the Must See rating.