[What The Fest?! 2018] Akin To Campfire Tales, GHOST STORIES Is As Charming As It Is Chilling
You're going to read a lot about how Ghost Stories is an adaptation of a British play from Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, which it is. I had no idea of this heading into it and realistically, it doesn't really effect the film. It explains a few of the stylistic cues but really all it will do after you learn that tidbit is make you realize, "damn, that's one hell of an adaptation."
Ghost Stories is an intelligent and concise anthology that follows skeptic and debunker of the supernatural, Phillip Goodman. After a snippet of home video to clue us in a bit on Goodman's strict religious upbringing, we drop in immediately on him years later doing what he does best: busting frauds. He's got the scoop on a proclaimed clairvoyant who connects desperate grievers with lost ones and after tapping into his earpiece where the poser medium is being fed data provided from pre-show surveys, Goodman publicly reveals the man as a hoax. He's a man with a strong conviction to the idea of nothing beyond science and soon receives a folder from another de facto skeptic who has three cases he's never been able to crack. Thus, we follow Goodman as he traipses through bits of Yorkshire to investigate the supernatural phenomena.
The movie carries a bit of charm like a kid would a baseball glove, comfortably worn and tucked in close. It's easy to see the comparisons to Amicus, Castle and Vincent Price yarns as it feels distinctly elegant, modern yet simple in its execution. Part of what made those movies so enjoyable and entertaining was the outstanding performances and the camera magic, both of which Ghost Stories has in spades. Throughout the ninety eight minute run time, we are treated to three chilling tales that our lead is looking to prove false. Nyman and Dyson do a bang up job of walking the tightrope, allowing us to tense up at the neatly told, ahem, ghost stories but also allowing us to wonder if Goodman is right on track with our glimpses of the wraparound. Ghost Stories doesn't ever look to terrify the audience but instead takes pride in it's ability to parlay what truly feels like one of those stories that friends are embarrassed to tell because they don't know what happened but it definitely flirts with the supernatural. It eases you in and then uses cinematic parlour tricks like flashing lights and the fear of the unknown to perform a truly captivating magic trick.
Nyman and Dyson are excellent craftsman, tapping into the spectral wit of Dahl and roguishness of Gaiman to deliver a film that is refreshingly fun. While Nyman does a good job in the lead role, taking on our expert debunker Goodman and Alex Lawther pops in for a spell as a particularly believable reclusive teenager, Martin Freeman is the standout star here. He plays his role with such mirth and confidence, it's impossible to not smile every time he's onscreen. Ole Bratt Birkeland deserves a special shoutout for his work with the cinematography, capturing the minimalistic feel of the stage play but also portraying the British oceanside with such crisp conviction it seems nearly palpable.
Overall, Ghost Stories has some ideas that it introduces and doesn't quite follow through on and the last ten minutes of the movie moves it from creepy to strange with some head scratches in-between. In spite of these hiccups, it's succinct with it's execution and expertly true to it's title. It's a movie that will make you feel right at home, soaking in the warmth of a fire, because it echoes the best sentiments of Castle and Amicus but with a modern spin. At the end of the day, we are given exactly what we're promised. Ghost stories.