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Review: Ghost Stories – “An Amicus style portmanteau horror”

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Written and directed by Andy Nyman (Severance) and Jeremy Dyson (The League of Gentleman) – and based on their play of the same name – Ghost Stories stars Nyman alongside Martin Freeman (Sherlock), Paul Whitehouse (The Fast Show) and Alex Lawther (The End of the F***ing World).

Professor Phillip Goodman (Nyman) is a professional paranormal debunker – busting “psychics” and proving that “hauntings” are just your brain “seeing what it wants to see”. But, when a weird cassette tape from a mysterious and reclusive elderly author arrives inviting him to investigate three unexplained cases, even he may be swayed to believe – and forced to confront his own ghosts.

Tony (Whitehouse) is a night watchman in the first tale, who tells Goodman of a time he was terrified while alone on a graveyard shift. Next up is Simon (Lawther), who is unceremoniously spooked during a woodland car breakdown; and finally, yuppie Mike Priddle (Freeman) is harangued by a bothersome baby. Goodman and his interviews with the victims tie the whole shebang together before he becomes the focus of something deeply unsettling himself.

The cast are all-around excellent. Nyman excels as the unravelling sceptic, and Whitehouse is a stand-out in a rare dramatic role. Freeman’s toff is a skin-crawling upper-class nightmare: gleefully patronising and punishing Goodman while sporting a flat cap, wellies and a broken shotgun over his arm – but Lawther steals the show. His Simon story may not get as indulged as the others, but he milks every frame of screen time with a brilliantly panicked and paranoid performance.

Ghost Stories takes place in and around wonderfully British locations like caravan sites, run-down coastal amusements, grim grey industrial estates and pubs surrounded by tower blocks. It also makes many sly digs at modern Britain’s Brexiteers attitudes to race, class, religion and immigration, and is very much a unique product of where it was made – warts and all.

Nyman and Dyson’s narrative construction is precise and smart. Puzzle pieces are scattered throughout to create a satisfying final whole during a horrifying finale. The scares have been carefully honed on-stage already and alongside the use of brutalising sound design Ghost Stories is flipping scary – an Amicus style portmanteau horror film with jumps that will snap your head off.

Ghost Stories is released in the UK on the 6th of April.

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