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Ghost Stories – Review (London Film Festival)

Ghost Stories Review

Our coverage of genre films at this year’s London Film Festival kicks off with this superior comedy-chiller based on the successful play.

Starring: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther
Directors: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman

A professor who debunks ghost encounters (Nyman, who also co-directs) is summoned by a retired sceptic, his childhood inspiration, to disprove three cases that still perplex him on his deathbed. He sets out to interview a glum night watchman (Whitehouse, The Fast Show), a nerve-shattered teen driver (Lawther) and a cocky, rich new parent (Freeman, Hobbit), all of whom claim to have had a life-changing and terrifying supernatural experience. As the professor himself starts to be spooked by fleeting visions, he wonders if a greater game is in play…

An adaptation of the stage play, which has been running on and off for 7 years, this is written and directed by its creators Jeremy Dyson (of The League Of Gentlemen) and Andy Nyman (best known for his work with psychological illusionist Derren Brown). It’s a very British film that takes familiar beats and ideas from old ghost stories (including A Christmas Carol) and has fun with them, never afraid to go for a big laugh or big scare. They’ve had plenty of time to fine tune the tale on the stage and it’s led to a cleverly weaved story within a story.

Andy Nyman’s lead performance is unassuming but relatable, Martin Freeman has campy chilling fun, and Paul Whitehouse shows he should get more film work as he nails his segment with pathos, humour and believability.

The three main suspense sequences build well, but their payoff jumps are a little underwhelming (“Oh that ghost lady’s wearing a lot of stage makeup”), it’s actually the unexpected scares in the bookending story that have more impact, and the closing moments that are most haunting.

Grade: B+

Ghost Stories is released in the UK on April 13th, and has US distribution for sometime in 2018.

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