Saturday, 14 April 2018

Ghost Stories (2017)

Warning: This Post Contains...

I had a kind of unfinished business with Ghost Stories. Back in 2010, when I was dating a girl down south she suggested we go and see the stage play which she had already seen and was enthusing about like mad, claiming she'd never be able to look at a child in a bed in the same way again. What with one thing and another, we didn't go. So I was intrigued and pleased to see that Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman had adapted their play for the big screen.

Does it stand up?

Sadly no, not really.

Dyson and Nyman recreate the portmanteau horrors of old rather well (look out for a tin of pet food bearing the legend 'Tigon') but watching it, I couldn't help but feel a recreation of such a genre was rather redundant. When the original thing is out there,created by such greats as MR James, why bother with something like this - with its added jump scares to appeal to younger audiences? Oh God, there are so many jump scares in this. I imagine they worked really well in the theatre, but in the cinema it just makes it feel like any other hoary old American teen horror. Crucially, Ghost Stories isn't particularly original or particularly scary (though it did impress me by leaving quite a bit to the imagination - the old Nigel Kneale trick) and - given Dyson and Nyman's comedic background - it isn't particularly funny either.

The film also suffered from having a twist that I spotted immediately thanks to a very recognisable actor being unable to immerse himself beneath the latex mask or hide his voice behind a couple of accents accurately enough. Once I'd got that, I started looking out for the clues Dyson and Nyman were laying throughout the film and found them all really easy to spot each time they popped up. There's nothing wrong with that per se, but I just felt the audience was being signposted a bit too clearly, rather than this being an example of filmmakers confident enough in their audience to allow them to find things for themselves.

On the positive side, this is a really fine cast. Andy Nyman is a sympathetic lead investigating the inexplicable events of that have terrorised his co-stars; Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther and Martin Freeman. With his role in the excellent The Death of Stalin and now this, it's really nice to see Whitehouse finally breaking out into the movies and proving what Johnny Depp perhaps said all along, that he's a genuinely good actor. Meanwhile Lawther once again proves that he's a young talent to watch with a very affecting turn, and yes there's  Freeman to bring the audiences in - the film's valuable big name for the US market. It's just a shame the vignettes they're involves in are not on a par with their talents.

There's a great sight gag regarding some classic puppets that will be familiar to anyone in the UK, especially those of us of a certain age. I think that may have been one of the highpoints actually in  this otherwise rather unoriginal ho hum affair that promises far more than it actually delivers.

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