3 out of 5
Directed by: Andy Nyman, Jeremy Dyson
While, in general, I believe that movies should not require any outside information to enjoy, there are exceptions to any rule, and Jeremy Dyson’s and Andy Nyman’s Ghost Stories is one such exception. As a standalone experience, it’s a spooky story you’ve seen before: a man (Nyman) is investigating three separate supernatural incidents to determine their credulity, only to discover that they might be interconnected, and connected to him as well…
Some great, convincing performances, excellent choice scares achieved organically through the visuals, and solid production design help smooth out the story’s predictability, as well as some of its larger logic gaps and inconsistencies. For example, Nyman is playing a professional debunker of frauds, starting with a “psychic,” before he’s tasked by his idol in the field to investigate the three cases on which we end up focused as they’re apparently impossible to disprove, but there doesn’t seem to be anything to disprove. Unlike the psychic, or, say, someone claiming to be possessed, the cases are just people talking about seeing scary things. They make for compelling flashback material, but it’s unclear how or why you’d go about disproving someone saying they saw a ghost, and though this could be said to be part of the “there’s something else going on…” plot, it’s not effectively carried through as such. There are disconnects of this sort throughout – plot points like the aforementioned idol (played by Leonard Byrne) having disappeared at some point in the past, only to return now – that feel like they’re just tossed in as spoooky details, but not given consequence.
That said, the scary movie genre is rife with flicks that aren’t nearly as competent in design as Ghost Stories, or as well anchored by their cast, so it works well enough for its 90 minutes.
However, it works better – and here is the outside knowledge – knowing that it is a popular play by the same writers / directors, adapted to a different format. This suddenly makes a lot of those plotting gaps more tolerable, as thinking through the logistics of how some of the flick’s reveals / scares are effected on stage renders those gaps as exactly what they are: scene dressing. In the film format, it comes across differently, of course, but I’m definitely intrigued by the effort it would take to put “Ghost Stories” on stage, and can thus appreciate the effort in adapting it. I suppose the reverse might be true if I’d seen the play first – that I’d be more dismissive of the movie – but I dunno: the fact that both are by Nyman and Dyson lends some credibility to the effort, and would be interesting if it encouraged them to try their hand at an original film.