Ghost Stories

 

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The film version of the stage hit is not so much unsettling as wearisome and perplexing.

 

Ghost Stories 

Paul Whitehouse gets unnerved

 

Ghost Stories arrives with a degree of reverential buzz and some vaunted expectation. But maybe it’s all a trick of the mind. The stage show on which the film is based certainly generated excitement – it ran for 1,000 performances at the Duke of York’s in London. However, theatre and film are very different animals, particularly where horror is concerned. The Victorians certainly understood the magic of stagecraft and there is a whiff of Victoriana about the film, with its preoccupation with the dingy and the time-worn.

 

The success of both ventures rests squarely with Andy Nyman, who co-created the stage show with Jeremy Dyson and now co-directs the film from his and Dyson’s screenplay, while recreating the central role of Professor Goodman. For the most part, Goodman is the voice of reason in a haunted world. Much like Nyman’s frequent collaborator Derren Brown, Goodman likes to debunk mediums and psychic acts, and is presented with three separate cases by his hero, Charles Cameron, who in recent years has become something of a mystery himself. It is Cameron who contacts Goodman out of the blue, and so the latter is lured to an address at a seaside resort in the heart of an unforgiving English winter. And there he finds Cameron, a jaundiced old man living in a smelly trailer piled high with dirty dishes and unmentionable detritus. Cameron then dismisses Goodman’s entire reputation and challenges him to investigate three cases destined to unhinge his scepticism...

 

Ghost Stories, which resembles one of the low-rent portmanteau pieces of the 1960s and 1970s trotted out by Amicus Productions, is not so much horrific as unpleasant. Besides the endless deserted rooms with deprived lighting, there is a streak of cruelty and ugliness that runs throughout, along with recurring props, symbols and motifs. But one expected more from Nyman (and Dyson) than just a series of hackneyed jump-shocks and unexplained apparitions. Boo! may work in the theatre… Then, without wishing to give too much away, the film slips from a state of funereal despondency to the outright illogical. A bit of humour would have been nice, but the only laugh generated in the entire thing is when one character struggles to get reception on his mobile phone (“Fucking O2!”). In his other guise as a mentalist and magician, Nyman co-created the TV shows Derren Brown – Mind Control and Trick of the Mind. If he and Derren got together to produce a horror film, well, that could be really something.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Andy Nyman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther, Martin Freeman, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Amy Doyle, and the voice of Derren Brown (as Betty).

 

Dir Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, Pro Claire Jones and Robin Gutch, Screenplay Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, Ph Ole Bratt Birkeland, Pro Des Grant Montgomery, Ed Billy Sneddon, Music Haim Frank Ilfman, Costumes Matthew Price.

 

Altitude Film Entertainment/Warp Films-Lionsgate.

97 mins. UK. 2017. Rel: 6 April 2018. Cert. 15.