Ghost Stories review: Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson bring a version their acclaimed stage show to the screen – a spectacular, nerve-shredding, scream-inducing horror experience.
Ghost Stories review by Awais Irfan.
Adapting from their acclaimed and colossal hit theatrical production, directors Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson offer us Ghost Stories: an anthology of unnerving stories that results in one of the scariest, most enjoyably frightening films in recent years.
Nyman, who also leads the cast, is Professor Goodman – a cocksure investigator that debunks the paranormal. When he is presented with three unsolvable cases – supposedly proof of the existence of supernatural world around us – the film takes us into each of these seemingly separate stories. But, as the film progresses, a sinister overarching narrative connecting all the tissue between these cases begins to form. And it’s quite brilliantly devised. It’s easy to see why Nyman and Dyson’s stage show was quite the success – these are two true masters of their craft, not to mention some of the finest orchestrators of tension and horror to step foot into the genre in some time. Watching Ghost Stories unfold, it makes you wonder just what the theatrical experience would have been like. Because if the cinematic adaptation is this good, I can only imagine the show would have been even superior and even scarier – if that’s somehow possible.
Yes, Ghost Stories is scary. But, unlike most other conventional “jump-fest” horror film, Nyman and Dyson have orchestrated the tension and fear so masterfully that this film will literally have you jumping every few minutes. It is terrifying. This is one of the scariest horror films I have seen in years. But it’s also one of the best. Nyman and Dyson clearly understand how to build an atmospheric and immersive world – this film is thick with tension and precision. Every frame is seeping with nuance and subtlety that add to the whole experience this film offers us; the kind of film that will reward its viewers upon repeat viewings. The frights come thick and fast once the film finds its footing (albeit after a stumble with pacing in its establishing act); frights that felt like classic horror, the kind that blends misdirection, sustained tension (some of the most unbearable and stomach-tightening I’ve seen in a film in some time), haunting imagery and outright unpredictability and surprise to create a truly terrifying fright-fest. However, the use of dark humour is also excellent – providing the occasional and necessary respite from the chills – and the juggling of the pair is superb; Nyman and Dyman really get the balance right in a way that means the scares and comedy never clash but rather work to assist one another in keeping the audience on its toes.
The writing and direction is genuinely astounding – as you would expect from a pairing that have been so close to the material for years. It’s a film that takes the genre tropes and uses them in such unexpected ways and to such great and scary effect too. It’s a film that never feels ground-breaking, however. Yes, it is effective with all its ingredients but there isn’t a whole lot unique about it other than it is scarier than most studio-horror flicks that release. But this isn’t really a discredit to the film; it’s a film that takes the formula ingredients and executes them with such astute craft that is almost like the best chefs putting their spin on a classic meal. Obviously, it’s going to be delicious. The performances are all also commendable; Nyman has a great presence and is matched by a superb supporting cast featuring the likes of Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther and Martin Freeman in a role that feels very against the actor’s archetypal roles.
Ghost Stories is genuinely amazing. This is a nerve-shredding, scream-inducing horror that is amongst the very best. It is haunting and, at times, even unbearable in the best of ways and makes for such an enjoyable experience. Because that is exactly what this film is. It is an experience. A truly spectacular one too.
Ghost Stories review by Awais Iran, March 2018.
Ghost Stories is currently playing at the Sydney Film Festival