Ghost Stories

I absolutely love a horror film, from the very bad ones to the amazingly haunting ones, but I find that usually the end is a little lack lustre. It usually revolves around the story having a happy ending and the demon, murderer, ghost or psycho getting their just desserts and everyone getting on with their lives; or it is left on a cliff hanger with the premise that there will be a second film to come. This film doesn’t do that.

Sadly I can’t give you a full breakdown of the story line, as anything I say could potentially give away the unique twists, but I can give you a little run down of the basics and give you my opinions.

Written by Andy Nyman and Jeramy Dyson, they have brought psychological fear of the unknown to the forefront in an understated film which will probably become a cult classic. This has a “League of Gentleman” or “Inside no. 9” feel to certain elements of the film, with a dark underlying humour and verging sinister outlook.

The film is based around Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman) and his life’s work of debunking psychics. His character is self righteous and to the point of dislike, which really does work in the film, but don’t expect to form any attachment to him, as he works his way through the film being fairly insensitive to those around him. Very early on he refers to another professor who he says inspired him to continue the work of proving that the supernatural doesn’t exist – Charles Cameron; he in himself became a mystery after disappearing some years earlier. One morning Prof. Goodman receives an envelope containing a message to go and see Charles. Obviously he does, and he is given three cases that Charles has never been able to explain.

Goodman then takes on the exploration of these cases, visiting each person, and in his truly unsympathetic way, questions them to try and get to the route of the story. Each experience is more traumatic for the person involved than the last.

Woolly (Paul Whitehouse) starts this adventure, and I have to say, this is probably one of the best things I have seen Whitehouse do. It is a far leap from the fast show or acting the idiot with Harry Enfield, and felt a more natural thing for him. To be a bitter, working class man with a tale of woe behind him just felt so suited to his style. I have, since watching this film read some other reviews and a lot of people comment about how jumps are set up to scare the viewer… well yes this is a horror film and the intention is to give those, but if you can set your mind to the psychology of the piece, then this is probably the most natural. This part of the film really plays on the characters personal baggage, and the feeling of isolation and fear of the dark. It is almost a typical setting – night watchman at an abandoned warehouse, but it really fits the piece.

Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther), again, you need to set your mind to the psychology of the story. Lawther plays this part so well, you can almost feel his psychosis. The story is based around a teenager borrowing his fathers car, and while this story is much more far fetched than the first as in the first, it gives the turning point for Goodman and his self assured attitude to the unexpected. I particularly like the cinematography of this element of the film, it feels claustrophobic in the visit, with Rifkind’s bedroom covered in occult artwork and a warm hue, Goodman comments how hot it is in the room, as Rifkind explains that he always feels cold. It is like some personal hell for the character,

The final story come from Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman). I like Freeman, but he can come across a little plastic fantastic in some of the films he has been in, but this suits this character down to the ground. This story feels different to the others, there is no need for you to over think the psychology of the story in this chapter as Priddle spells it out for the viewer. The most detailed story of the three and is based around poltergeist activity. This is really where I have to stop myself telling you any more.

Hopefully this will have drawn you in enough to want to watch the film, as it explores themes of religion, belief, medical trauma and the human ability to cope and what happens when the brain can’t.

The filming uses a range of techniques from home videos, with their grainy and bleached out colours to wide angled shots, each picked to subconsciously a tune the audience to the feel of what is happening on screen. The sets are very, natural looking (up to the end), and there is a really nice use of recurring theme… a shot of a top of a window with the curtains open).

You will need to put to one side the misuse of the term existential terror, and any medical knowledge you may have, as while a lot of the film seems to have been researched really well, these two areas have been bent to suit the writers need rather than using the correct terms and conditions which should be attributed, but that is probably the only thing I can fault this film on.

The overall storyline seems to have a very slow build, at one point I was wondering how it was going to end as the themes had no obvious connection, but the ending was a clever twist and sneaks right up to you and smacks you in the face, which makes the slow build up seem a million miles away and will leave you wondering what the hell just happened.

British horrors are usually hit and miss (as with a lot of British cinema really) but this is a real understated beauty, and I find myself wanting to watch it again (which is something I don’t usually walk out of the cinema thinking). So I urge you guys, if you can get to see this film, don’t miss out, as it really is worth the watch.

Have you seen Ghost Stories? Why not tell me what you thought? Like this post? Why not share it?

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