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Ghost Stories (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

Ghost Stories


Starring Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther, Paul Warren, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Nicholas Burns, Samuel Bottomley, Daniel Hill, Leonard Byrne, Jake Davies, Nicholas Burns, Oliver Woollford, Callum Goulden, Louise Atkins, Lesley Harcourt, Amy Doyle, Deborah Wastell, Christine Dalby and Maggie McCarthy.

Screenplay by Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman.

Directed by Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman.

Distributed by IFC Midnight. 97 minutes. Not Rated.

I had a great intro for this review, and then I realized that it was actually a huge spoiler for this multifaceted film. So, time to switch gears – there is too much good in this film to spoil in any way.

Here’s what I can tell you, this movie is even better when you watch it a second time. There is so much to see, so much to hear. It is a mystery and a spectacle and one hell of a narrative.

Andy Nyman wrote, directed, and starred in Ghost Stories as lead character, Professor Phillip Goodman, a middle-aged man who has spent his lifetime working to debunk people’s belief in the paranormal in his show “Psychic Cheats.”

I think that it is safe to use the comparison that Ghost Stories feels a lot like “A Christmas Carol,” but instead of being visited by three ghosts, Goodman is tasked with pursuing three unexplainable cases of paranormal activity which prove that everything he has spent a lifetime trying to debunk… is true.

Goodman is tasked by the crotchety, ailing, missing-for-decades Charles Cameron (played by Leonard Byrne). Cameron inspired Goodman’s career as a paranormal debunker and coined the term “existential terror” – the fear of there being nothing to go to in the great beyond, which leads people to believe anything to relieve the fear. “The brain sees what it wants to see.” When faced with his career idol, he is told that his work, and therefore life, is shit. And Cameron begs Goodman to prove him wrong.

The film then jumps straight into the three cases, while weaving back to Goodman as he is forced to work through his cynicism and face his own past.

One of the most interesting things about Ghost Stories is the difference in tone for each of the unsolved cases. The first time I tried to watch the movie (and granted, I am a self-admitted wimp) I was so terrified that I had to turn it off and wait until daylight to continue. I spent half of the movie jumping out of my seat, even when the pop scares were predictable. But, then the movie switches gears with each story and we are given humor and arrogance and a full range of human emotions in the characters.

I requested the opportunity to screen Ghost Stories because of my appreciation of actors Alex Lawther (Freak Show, The Imitation Game, End of the F***ing World) and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit Trilogy, Sherlock, Black Panther).

Lawther plays Simon Rifkind, the focus of case number two. He is so brilliant in this quirky, manically humorous role of a teenager with a classically strained relationship with his parents. In my opinion, Lawther is the character actor of this generation. He plays exhausted and crazy better than any actor that I have seen as of late. Plus, you cannot miss the score for this case – it is straight out of every gothic fright film. Lawther’s facial expressions match its drama.

The usually likeable Freeman plays the self-assured Mike Priddle in the final case, and his story carries us to the jaw dropping end of Ghost Stories.

With fear of going too far, I am going to leave this review where it is. I strongly recommend this film and suspect it will be my new go-to choice to show friends in need of a film that goes bump in the night.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: April 27, 2018.

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