'Ghost Stories' is a very British journey into the supernatural
Wednesday 18th April 2018 | David
In addition to perhaps being the most engrossing British horror film of recent years, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s Ghost Stories might also be the most British.
From the dismal weather to the tacky TV shows, this collection of loosely connected tales of the supernatural is saturated with the dreariest details of UK life, along with the island’s distinct affection for deadpan, miserabilist humour. Only in Britain would a teenager complain about O2’s lack of reception while he’s being stalked by a demonic horned beast. It’s eccentric, culturally informed touches like this that grant Ghost Stories both its endearing personality and its Brexit-era resonance.
Nyman stars as Professor Phillip Goodman, an author and TV star known for debunking psychics and supernatural sightings. Out of the blue, the sceptical Englishman one day receives a message from Charles Cameron (Leonard Byrne), a famed Scottish paranormal investigator from the 1970s. Cameron challenges Goodman to investigate three cases that he himself was never able to solve, leading the drama into a series of spooky episodes recalled mostly via flashback.
Each of the film’s three short stories consist of a slowly escalating encounter with some otherworldly presence – a security guard on his night shift (Paul Whitehouse) meets a creepy ghost girl; a stressed out millennial (Alex Lawther) is pursued through the woods by the aforementioned goat-like creature; a wealthy financier (Martin Freeman) is tormented by a poltergeist in his country home – and admittedly, none of them offer anything particularly new on paper.
It is only through Dyson and Nyman’s witty writing and taut direction that this trio of tales and Goodman’s grim overarching journey come alive as a darkly comic saga of grief, despair, loneliness and regret. The demons evoked here are national as well as personal, channelling a cavalcade of cultural spectres that haunt the homes and families of Britain, from class tensions to the various forms of bigotry and prejudice that simmer just below the surface of this fallen empire.
If that all sounds a bit preachy, rest assured that Ghost Stories is a film that’s intended first and foremost to entertain, and will likely deliver for anyone with a macabre sense of humour and a morbid interest in the tragically absurd. While Britain may sometimes seem like a pretty depressing place to live in, we can at least take solace in knowing that it's probably the only nation in the world that could have spawned this fun and frightening creation.
Ghost Stories is in UK cinemas now!