By – Gareth Jones
For fans of modern British horror stories, portmanteau horror films, Martin Freeman
I must admit, I am susceptible to the portmanteau or anthology horror film sub-genre. Last week on Sleep In Cinema we talked about Tales from the Hood, a fantastic version that took the sub-genre and wonderfully constructed it through a black lens. Earlier examples include 1945’s Dead of Night, 1963’s Black Sabbath, all iterations of Creepshow, and most recently the V/H/S series. I enjoy all of them, but find ones that are told by one artist have more continuity with the framing story, for example the masterwork that is Kobayashi’s Kwaidan from 1964. This anthology approach was made especially popular by the independent British film studio Amicus, which made seven of these films in the 1960’s and 70’s. Ghost Stories is pulling from this tradition in the UK while also updating the themes to the modern era.
Released in 2017, Ghost Stories is remarkably an adaptation of a stage production. Written and directed by the duo of Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman (who also stars in the film version), the film is about Professor Philip Goodman debunker of the paranormal, as we see in the opening story showing him revealing a charlatan medium for his television series. After this event, he receives an invitation from his idol, Charles Cameron, to solve three unanswered investigations into the supernatural. With this, we are off to the races for three ghost stories, each in turn advancing Goodman’s own personal storyline.
All three of these stories are genuinely scary, often with simple cinematic devices. Sound and lighting design plays a huge role in amping up the nerve-racking elements. There are some strong special effects as well, but it uses the basic methods of creating suspense and terror in the audience that I am sure worked just as effectively on stage. The performances are also wonderful, in particular the dual role played by Martin Freeman. You can tell he is having a marvelous time in these roles. Andy Nyman also is rightfully excellent as a co-creator of these stories. I also want to highlight workhorse actor Paul Whitehouse and newcomer Alex Lawther who was so good in Andor.
I am reviewing this now for one main reason. I recently attended the Ghost Story reading organized by Anthony Vacca/Under the Mountain, at O’Neall Library. For the second year, the story was read by professional book narrator Matt Godfrey. This is in the long tradition of telling ghost stories around Christmas time or honestly the winter holidays. Many cultures have a tradition of scaring each other as they gather around the fire during the bleakest, darkest of days. This visceral tradition is so valuable and I love to see films continuing the tradition. So, on this darkest of days, the Winter Solstice, find yourself a good ghost story. In fact, Sleep In Cinema will be doing this again by talking about The Muppet Christmas Carol this week on the show. Charles Dickens’s jump started the tradition with his masterful writing. This masterpiece may in fact be the most adapted ghost story of them all, The Muppet Christmas Carol is my personal favorite.
Ghost Stories is available to stream on many free streaming sites now!
Written by: Gareth Jones
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