Review: Your hair will stand on end for Ghost Stories

Martin Freeman in Ghost Stories. Photo: Lionsgate Films

Martin Freeman in Ghost Stories. Photo: Lionsgate Films - Credit: Lionsgate Films

Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman's ruthlessly efficient horror anthology Ghost Stories scared audiences out of their seats in theatre and now it comes to the big screen, with Nyman as a debunker of the paranormal who investigates the stories of the supposed supernatural.

Ghost Stories. Photo: Lionsgate Films

Ghost Stories. Photo: Lionsgate Films - Credit: Lionsgate Films

Ghost Stories (15)

***

The telling of a ghost story is like the telling of a joke in that it is essential that everything is set up properly before you deliver the punchline.

The difference is that although there are a limited number of basic jokes from which that punchline can be taken, in the ghost story it always boils down to Boo! Made You Jump.


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Jeremy Dyson is the unseen fourth Gentlemen from The League Of; aside from acting Andy Nyman has frequently collaborated with Derren Brown on his screen and stage shows.

The pair have a keen sense of heritage and this film version of their successful fearta production mixes the cosily sinister tales of M.R. James with more modern horror film traditions. The plot has Prof Goodman (Nyman), a TV debunker of the paranormal, being set the challenge of trying to find rational explanations for three unexplained cases.

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In this kind of film, which is dependent on the build-up of tension, every inch of the screen is important and the framing and cinematography of Ole Bratt Birkeland is incredibly rich and detailed: your eyes rove around the screen trying to guess where the menace will come from.

Andy Nyman and Martin Freeman in Ghost Stories. Photo: Lionsgate Films

Andy Nyman and Martin Freeman in Ghost Stories. Photo: Lionsgate Films - Credit: Lionsgate Films

In the first tale comedian Paul Whitehouse is a nightwatchman guarding a disused old asylum and as he sits in his little office with the lights on and the view of the dark derelict hall through the window, the scene is almost unbearably tense.

Emotionally volatile student Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther) and oily businessman Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman) also discuss and dissect their harrowing experiences.

The film though is a compendium of beautifully constructed set-ups to increasingly less thrilling major jumps. The tension is fine, but the tension has to be broken and the punchlines are pretty forgettable.

The film made me jump and made my hair stand on end a number of times but by halfway I had largely lost faith in it and had no great hopes for the final revelation being worth the journey.

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