directed by Andy Nyman & Jeremy Dyson
runtime: 98 mins
“Why is it always the last key that unlocks everything?”
I’m not going to bury the lead here, folks. Ghost Stories was fantastic. Do not let the generic sounding name fool you. Not only did it cause genuine unease within me, it repeatedly subverted my expectations and left me impressed. Adapted from the stage play of the same name from Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, who pull co-directing duty here. Let’s get into it.
The film begins as a pseudo documentary. Philip Goodman (director Nyman) is a professor, and lifelong skeptic, who exposes psychics as frauds on a television program. One day he receives a recording from Charles Cameron, a well-known skeptic personality that he reveres (and who was thought to be dead). The voice on the recording asks him to meet up.
Upon arriving, professor Goodman is humbled by Cameron’s blunt nature, and surprised that he seems to be entertaining the idea that there are things in this world that cannot be explained by logic. Goodman is then handed a file with three cases that Cameron has been unable to explain away. It is at this point in the film you realize you are watching an anthology. Or are you?
Professor Goodman investigates these cases by interviewing a colorful cast of characters (All portrayed by fantastic actors), and allowing them to tell him their stories. Sounds pretty straight forward, right? Not so fast…
As I said before, Ghost Stories WILL subvert your expectations as it becomes an odyssey of paranoia and anxiety. Repeated imagery creeps in, insidiously. The brain sees what it wants to see. Accompanied by a score that could make the most mundane action feel epic and chilling, Ghost Stories grabs your attention and freezes it in place.
Special note should be made of the performances of Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, and Alex Lawther, for their excellent depictions of coy, pissed, and paranoid respectively. Alex Lawther was the biggest standout for me on my first viewing, as I empathized with the anxiety that had him riddled useless. I felt helpless myself to the whims of the directors, and I loved every moment of it.
Ghost Stories opens this Friday in NY, LA, and cable VOD courtesy of IFC
-Elliot “Rat” Ross