If you are a fan of Hammer Films, you are in luck. The very British and somewhat William Castle aligned, Ghost Stories anthology film is going to be precisely your cup of tea.
Ghost Stories centralizes on Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman), a supernatural skeptic, out to disprove every bit of otherworldliness that shows its face in the public eye. After a long, successful track record of bringing down big name paranormal fakes, Goodman is asked by a personal hero to investigate and attempt to disprove three case files, described as “unexplainable.”
From there the film breaks off into an interesting exploration of science versus the unexplainable and the possibilities of an afterlife. Those themes are surveyed within the three cases.
Each case breaks down into its own ‘ghost story,’ told by one of three characters who believes they have had a truly supernatural experience. Each, story begins with Goodman taking note of each character’s details before diving into the spooky vignette of what occurred to them.
Each story plays out with its own chilling sequence of horrors ranging from things that go bump in the night to run ins with the supernatural inhabitants of the woods. Ghost Stories does a fantastic job making those elements hair-raising and even manage to sculpt a few good jump scares. The problem is that the stories within Ghost Stories, feel too short and almost incomplete. One second you are being invested in someone’s trauma; the next you are yanked away to someone else’s narrative. I would have liked to have seen more of each character’s story as opposed to being all too quickly shifted around.
Unlike, the majority of anthology films, this one’s wrap-around narrative is the focus of the whole thing, making the overall centralized skeptic plot the thing that eventually ties everything together for an interesting twist. While most of these kinds of films throw in a twist ending for funsies, Ghost Stories has one that is actually justified and in a way, changes the meaning of the stories in-between.
Ghost Stories is a much more serious film that I supposed it would be from its trailer. There are a few laughs peppered in occasionally but the brunt of the film is somber. It’s Hammer sensibilities make for a cut and dry-whited approach that has obvious reverence for the classics.
Writer/Directors, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman deliver something that feels personal in its grander ideas. Along with that they manage to push engaging drama out alongside the things that go bump in the night. The deeply flawed and tortured characters are fleshed out in great detail through their pre-ghost story confessions. In addition, these guys do a heck of a job executing precise, suspenseful beats once they do dive into the spooky bits, making for a super well-rounded film experience.
Case number two, featuring Alex Lawther (Black Mirror, The End of the Fucking World) is my personal favorite of the bunch. Lawther’s fragile state as the psychologically haunted Simon Rifkind, is a fantastically disarming approach. Outside of the character, case number two is just plain scary from beginning to end. I definitely would have loved to see more of this one in particular. Excellent stuff, and something I’m going to have glued to the back of my skull the next time I’m driving down lonely country roads.
Ghost Stories is the first heady anthology that I can recall. What you are seeing the entire time might not necessarily be what is at face-value and I appreciate that as well as its bigger themes. Ghost Stories has the bones of a classic and is effectively terrifying. It has plenty of creeping flesh inducing moments complete with effective gags. As a collector and outright fan of anthologies, Ghost Stories is a good one that offers a nice twist on the genre.