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Review: Ghost Stories is a Faithful Adaption of the Stage Version

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Review: Ghost Stories is a Faithful Adaption of the Stage Version

In 2010 the London West End play Ghost Stories terrified theatre audiences. It was an intensely frightening experience with a sense of horror that worked on multiple levels. It had very effective jump scares while also having a psychologically unnerving plot that stayed with the viewer long after the curtain called.

Now the show has been adapted into a terrifying movie. Creative duo Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman transport their work from stage to screen masterfully. Nyman not only writes and directs the film. He also plays the lead role of Phillip Goodman, a professional debunker of the supernatural. He is give three cases that defy explanation but as he delves deeper into them his own personal ghosts come back to haunt him.

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The film is expertly crafted, teasing the audience with building tension till it becomes almost unbearable. The camera work at the start is static, similar to how Alien creates a sense of impending dread. Often the scariest things are what we see just in the corner of the frame.

The sound design is the best of any horror film in a long time. It does a brilliant job of creating terror in the viewer. The cast are all terrific. Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther and Martin Freeman bring a believable humanity to the nightmare world. Andy Nyman carries the film and helps bring a believability to some of the more bizarre elements we see or hear.

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It is an anthology film in the tradition of the British Amicus classics of the seventies, The Vault of Horror being a particularly strong influence. There are plenty of other past influences from the history of horror films which are paid tribute to without being derivative, as has been the case with so many other movies of this genre.

The League of Gentlemen‘s Jeremy Dyson injects some well needed dark humour into the mix. Comedy is important to an enjoyable horror film. Ghost Stories knows exactly when to fill the viewer with terror or make them laugh in relief. It makes the movie an enjoyable ride.

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It is a faithful adaption of the stage version that due to the nature of the medium of cinema is not quite as immersive. For instance, the play uses the viewer’s sense of smell to engage the audience. Ghost Stories the film does not employ John Waters’ Odorama card gimmick. It also does not delve as deeply as the play into the psychology of why people see ghosts, perhaps because this would make the viewer focus inward instead of paying attention to the creatures on screen.

Overall the film is an intellectually focused horror with some effective jump scares. Towards the end the plot gets intentionally confusing and disruptive. There is enough weirdness in it to satisfy fans of Jeremy Dyson’s earlier work and is made by two experts/lovers of horror who know what they are doing. The ultimate message of the film is an unsettling one: the true horror in life is not the supernatural but the fractured psychology of the human mind.

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