"Ghost Stories" is a (Mostly) Fun Throwback

The mind sees what it wants to see. This is the premise of the UK film Ghost Stories, a highly anticipated and classically-minded horror film. With a structure that resembles an anthology, three short tales strung together, the film’s focus is really its substantial wrap around story that forms its main narrative.  In it, Professor Goodman (played nimbly by Andy Nyman) makes it his life’s work to debunk ghost-obsessed charlatans via a reality show.  Three cases however lead him down a rabbit hole that push the boundaries of what he accepts to be truth.

It’s a classic spook show that touches on all the tropes of the genre: a night watchman in an abandoned asylum, a careless youngster on a joy ride through desolate woods, and a haunted stranger with an unimaginable secret. For fans of the ghost genre this will be an absolutely fun romp with a straightforward approach that is somehow refreshing. The production values show the care that went into making the film and there’s so much attention to detail with the elaborate sets, the moody theatrical lighting, and strong performances from a spooked Paul Whitehouse, a deranged Alex Lawther, and Martin Freeman at his serious-wacky best. Yes this is a man’s movie with nary a (living) female in sight, which is unusual for a horror movie. Where is the final girl or the scream queen?

However, the final destination may be a sticking point for many viewers. The source material is a stage play and sorrowful endings are all too common in theatre. The movie is a gleeful, frightful fun for most of  its running time and the abrupt tonal shift is jarring and unnecessary. It harkens to the obnoxious twists found in M.  Night Shyamalan’s movies and this too, lands with dud. It’s not enough to ruin the movie but still brings the fun to a halt.