Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Ghost Stories (2018) Quick Review - Not-so Ghostbusters

Note: This review is part of my reviews which I publish directly onto my Facebook Page, and are intended to be quick-fire projects.

I saw Ghost Stories last night and wanted to scramble together a few thoughts whilst on my tea break at work. Ghost Stories is an anthology film focusing on things going bump in the night (plus a rather odd 2nd segment about running over Satan), with a wrap around about a professor with a hard-on for telling people they're wrong. It's a decent enough flick drenched in old school atmosphere. The sort of palpable, existential dread you feel on Sunday evening knowing you have work the next day.

Ghost Stories mixes the traditional supernatural with English folklore, crises of faith, and the gloomy urban entropy of post-Thatcher England (grim pubs, rotting industry, and dank caravan parks) - think any small UK shithole North of Manchester (modern Gothic, really). Mix in a few solid performances from recognisable faces (Andy Nyman, Paul Whitehouse, Martin Freeman...I suppose), and you have a watchable film. A sort of Amicus Productions-lite affair, minus the schlock set dressing.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Ghost Stories is how it pays tribute to the British horror anthology...by not particularly adhering to the format at all. The three separate stories are a non-affair really, steeped in fake-outs and cliché imagery, with only the final segment offering any meat to possibly compete with modern horror titans Insidious and The Conjuring. These stories deal with a nightwatchman in a old haunted building, a weird teenager stuck in the woods at night after his car breaks down, and a banker dealing with a sort-of Rosemary's Baby deal. It's in the wrap around, in Nyman's Professor Philip Goodman's gumshoe work that the real story and magic happens. Not unlike going to see a band and realising you like the warm-up acts better.

The downside was that it relied heavily on jump scares - not unlike the dickhead of the group in a slasher film. And the ending, whilst it's as brutal as a 1970's coming of age film, it comes from nowhere. This descent into utter bleakness should be expected when the film is based on a play by Jeremy Dyson (one of The League of Gentlemen's creators/writers), admittedly. But it's the specific manifestation the bleak ending takes, that makes it such a left field turn from the rest of the film. In the end I felt of this film how my dad must think of me: weird, creepy, gloomy, and completely missing its potential.

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