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Ghost Stories [2017] Review | Movie Explained

Ghost Stories (2017)_review
  • 6.5/10
    Critic's Rating - 6.5/10

Ghost Stories

Prof Philip Goodman (Andy Nyman) in the film Ghost Stories, is a celebrity debunker of the paranormal who is generally quit to spot hidden mic feeds and psychological manifestations of familial discord. Goodman himself had a troubled childhood, growing up with a strict Jewish father and a dark secret. His hero worship of another 1970s TV sceptic got him through.

The older paranormal buster hasn’t been seen since his cases involved a battle-axe mother (shown in archive footage) adopting a spooky voice to tell tales on her adult daughter: “She fingered herself last night, thinking about John Travolta ”

Ghost Stories (2017)_poster

When he mysteriously reappears to ask Goodman to investigate three unsolved cases, the latter obliges.

In the first, a prickly nightwatchman (an intimidating Paul Whitehouse) with a tragic family history sees and hears terrible things while guarding a derelict building once used as an asylum for female patients. In the second, a nervy, bullied young man (The Imitation Game’s actor Alex Lawther, excellent in this film) is involved in a hit-and-run incident with a demonic beast, while driving deep in a forest. The third segment concerns a wealthy high-flier from the financial sector (Martin Freeman, oozing a lot of controlled bravura and confidence, strangely), whose house is terrorised by a poltergeist just as his wife is going into labour.

Martin Freeman in Ghost Stories (2017)

In time-honoured portmanteau tradition, an encore suggests that all these stories have merely provided clues to a greater horror.

Theatre Director Andy Nyman (the co-creator of master Illusionist Derren Brown’s stage-shows) and The League of Gentlemen’s Jeremy Dyson scored a theatre-stage-version West End hit with Ghost Stories in 2010. The play Dead of Night, a creep-out in the style of the Ealing genre standard, was always likely to be transferred to the big screen.

Often, however, one can’t help but see where the stagecraft ought to be. There are floating sheets and bangs and bumps that neither yield dread nor jump scares. The small spaces, too, seldom fill up the larger, more expansive format.


Against that, certain show-stopping moments do transplant successfully. The performances are ace. And the film, Ghost Stories makes terrific use of what can only be called Dismal Britain: ugly, windswept roads, empty pubs by daylight, and gloomy caravans. Class snobbery, anti-Semitism and vile depictions of childhood bullying ensure this is never the green and pleasant land the Brexiteers had in mind. Or so we hope. Overall, though, it has enough chutzpah and gothic visuals to keep audiences amused; A young Christopher Walken with a British accent (Hard to imagine, I know) would have been slightly better in the lead role here, than the sometimes tepid Martin Freeman; however, Freeman acquits his role in average fashion. There are better straight-actors out there, though (straight, as in, the ‘foil’ of the plot, the everyman who is thrust into a situation he has to deal with.)

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About the author

Gili Ransome

I studied film-making and photography in College of Design, Dublin 1, Ireland.

I do Film-promo work for the writer and film-producer Steven Cutts, who financed and executive-produced the films 'Will's Diaries' (2010), and 'Adieu Marx' (2013). We have promoted & shown Adieu Marx, at Cannes Film Festival 2013.

I wrote the book 'The Geebst', on Kindlebooks, and am presently trying to get it made into a TV cartoon series.

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