Review: ‘Ghost Stories’ Manages To Give You Chills – Three Different Ways

Ghost Stories follows Professor Dr. Phillip Goodman (played by co-writer/director Andy Nyman), who doesn’t believe in ghosts. Or spirits. Or goblins and ghouls. Phillip has focused his life on disproving these stories and encounters on his own show called Psychic Cheats. He goes around to different places and figures out the so-called truth behind the paranormal encounters that people claimed to have. Phillip is cynical and jaded, vehemently opposed to anything supernatural. He believes that the brain sees what it wants to see and lives by this motto.

Charles Cameron is one of Phillip’s idols. Just like Phillip, Charles made his career disproving ghost stories. Out of the blue Charles disappeared and no one knows what happened to him. Phillip has always wished he could meet Charles and one day, years after Charles has been presumed dead, Phillip gets his wish. He receives a mysterious package that has a tape and a picture of a man holding that day’s newspaper. The tape is from Charles and invites Phillip to come meet him. Without delay Phillip goes to meet his idol. Charles is living in a trailer that is in a state of filth and he is clearly sick. Surprisingly, Charles condemns Phillip for his work and calls him a coward. Charles tells Phillip that there were three cases that he could never explain which lead him to change his belief about the supernatural. Charles gives him the cases and challenges him to come back and explain them to him…if he can. 

The rest of Ghost Stories is broken down into three parts, one for each of the cases. The first follows Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse), a night watchman at a former asylum for women. The case involves incidents that happened at the asylum that caused Tony to immediately quit the job and never be the same again. Phillip interviews Tony and his priest before making his diagnosis about the event. The next case focuses on Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther), a troubled teenager who has clearly been through hell and back. Simon takes his father’s car for a nighttime joyride, and hits a mysterious figure. Little did he know this ride would forever change his life. Lastly, we explore the case of Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman). Mike’s wife is pregnant and is spending the night in the hospital for observation. While she is gone, Mike experiences paranormal activity in his bedroom. He doesn’t know how to explain it, but is terrified from what he is seeing.

Ghost Stories has interesting elements throughout that Nyman and fellow writer/director Jeremy Dyson employ. We see various old footage that is able to provide a context for certain characters and past events. At other times Ghost Stories is filmed like a documentary with Dr. Goodman speaking directly to the camera. These different stylistic features keep Ghost Stories unique and interesting. Nyman and Dyson show the audience each of the cases that Phillip investigates instead of just having him hear them through his interviews, breaking the film up into almost four short films – all unique and different. It was a clever way to keep Ghost Stories fresh and the audience engaged. Nyman and Dyson do a masterful job of building dread through all the stories. The characters have slow, methodical movement as they creep around corners – terrified of what they may see. Nyman and Dyson use shadows, slow music, long camera shots, and the perfect emphasis on sounds – breathing, knocking, and steps – to set a very tense and enjoyable experience. Ghost Stories doesn’t disappoint, and although it may find itself deep in the weeds towards the end, it was still an enjoyable experience overall.

Rating: 3 out of 5