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'Ghost Stories' is more affecting than scary

A shot from "Ghost Stories," directed by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson.

Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson direct “Ghost Stories,” a British anthology film starring Nyman as Professor Goodman, a man who dedicates his life to debunking the psychic and the supernatural. The film is an homage to great British anthologies released in the 1960s and 70s by Amicus Productions. Low-budget films like Asylum, From Beyond the Grave and Tales from the Crypt are some of the studio’s notable releases that tell different stories linked by an overarching narrator.

This film updates that formula with Professor Goodman, the narrator in this film, and his television show exposing con artists who pose as psychics. In the opening glimpses of the film we see scenes from his childhood, and we realize that something went wrong in his life that led him to his current reclusive state. One day, he receives a sealed letter from Dr. Charles Cameron, a pioneer in Goodman’s field, and a sort of hero of his as well. Cameron, who was mysteriously reported missing years ago, asks Goodman to look at three cases, all with people in different stages of their life, all with something sinister behind the curtains.

These cases include:  unusual activity in an abandoned building, a young man being stalked by a mysterious creature and a character played by Martin Freeman being haunted in a newborn baby’s room. While they each involve different supernatural phenomena, a common thread connecting all of them is how they’re not about the scares themselves, but rather the meaning behind these poltergeists.

For years, people have debated whether or not the supernatural is real. Is it true or not? Are the people who claim to experience these events crazy? Desperate? Attention-seeking? But more often that not we forget to ask the important questions: Do supernatural experiences, true or not, have any value? The film makes the case that supernatural experiences are more than hauntings, they’re lessons. In all three cases, the characters take something away from it. One learned from it, one tried to run away from it, and one obsessed over it. However, all experiences provided commentary on the character’s  lives, and the darkness toiling away in their minds.

Although the film is visually interesting and beautiful, elevated by Ole Birkeland’s impressive cinematography and the music by Haim Ilfman, “Ghost Stories” lacks the raw terror of the early Amicus films. Some of the scares are predictable and aren’t always staged well. The stories themselves seem short and aren’t paced very well, though it does pick up in its crazy final act.

“Ghost Stories” remains effective due to its investigative nature of what the paranormal means, as well as the impact it has on particular people. It furthers the point that this film cares more about what these hauntings tell us, instead of flickering lights and wretched faces.

Grade: B

The film is out in limited engagements and VOD

aalmutairi@theeagleonline.com


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