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 ”
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.
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.