Ghost Stories Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman
2017, 98 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on September 4th, 2018
Andy Nyman as Professor Goodman
Martin Freeman as Mike Priddle
Paul Whitehouse as Tony Matthews
Alex Lawther as Simon Rifkind
Paul Warren as Woolly
Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Father Emery
Nicholas Burns as Mark van Rhys
Louise Atkins as Steph
In 2010, the play Ghost Stories opened in Liverpool, written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman. In it a parapsychologist (played by Nyman) recounts three haunting tales that are reenacted on stage before a major twist ending to the main storyline is revealed, one that kept audiences coming back for more. The play ran for six years and toured throughout the world to rave reviews. Now the piece has been adapted for film with Dyson and Nyman returning in their original capacities. Will lightning strike twice for the duo or is something lost in translation?
Nyman reprises the role of Professor Goodman, the doubting doctor seeking out paranormal frauds and charlatans. When famed skeptic Charles Cameron, his childhood hero, reaches out with a trio of unsolved cases, the potential for something unique is too hard to resist. Goodman tracks down the storytellers and tries to debunk their experiences with common sense and a generous dose of skepticism. First up is a night watchman (Paul Whitehouse, The Death of Stalin), who witnessed something unnerving at an abandoned asylum where he works. The tale is full of dread and plenty of things that go bump in the night. This first story is reminiscent in presentation to the classic horror film The Haunting (1963), where sound is everything.
The second tale introduces Goodman to Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther, The End of the F***ing World), a troubled teen who suffered a terrible experience in the wake of car accident in the woods late one night. He hit something that wasn’t quite human and not very forgiving. Another fine exercise in suspense as Simon’s isolation and terror are mined to the fullest. Sadly, the account ends abruptly and left me feeling unsatisfied.
Martin Freeman (Sherlock) stars as an expectant father with a poltergeist problem in the final story, and he is excellent as always. The format of the film begins to change in the wake of this entry and things take off in a surprisingly fresh direction. The connecting storyline takes center stage and becomes its own entry in the anthology of unexplained tales.
Ghost Stories is a love letter to classic British anthologies from the 1970s like Tales from the Crypt or The House That Dripped Blood. The film brings a clever collection of frightening stories that I cannot help but wish I had been able to see live in the theatre where I feel the big twist would be far more powerful and effective than it is here. All of these tales are male-centric with a hint of machismo at the core, and the film would have benefited from a strong female lead. There are some beautifully staged theatrical transitions that are highly creative and eagerly welcomed that elevate the material in the final act to something special. Cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland deserves special mention here, as he captures the mood perfectly with his impressive lighting design that really establishes the creep factor.
Dyson and Nyman have made a good film that became a festival darling, but something in the execution left me wanting more. I had avoided all of the hype surrounding this picture, so my expectations were low, but I still left unsatisfied. The wraparound story with its eleventh-hour twist makes for some grand storytelling, but it overpowers the trio of terrors that came before. The individual stories at the core of this picture are all set up without much in the way of payoff and that is the real shame here given that when the movie works, it does so in a thrilling manner. The unevenness of the presentation is a bit of a turn-off, but I can still recommend the title for all that the filmmakers got right.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the picture is absolutely gorgeous. Black levels are respectable here and shadow play is well-realized throughout. Colors are muted at times, but consistent and there is plenty of small-object detail in hair and clothing.
A DTS-HD MA 5.1 track handles the full range of the complex audio mix from the quiet creaks and whispers in the dark to the crashing thunder of a jump scare. The quiet moments really shine and make good use of the surround speakers.
Optional English and Spanish subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Sadly, the only special feature included on this disc is the original theatrical trailer.