Theatrical release poster
|Music by||Frank Ilfman|
|Cinematography||Ole Bratt Birkeland|
|Edited by||Billy Sneddon|
|Distributed by||Lionsgate Films|
|Box office||$4.2 million|
Ghost Stories is a 2017 British horror film written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, based on their 2010 stage play of the same name. It stars Nyman reprising his role from the play, as a man devoted to debunking fraudulent psychics, who is tasked with solving three unexplained paranormal events. Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther and Martin Freeman co-star as the individuals who attest to the supernatural encounters.
In 1979, Phillip Goodman’s strict Jewish father threw his sister out of the family for dating a South Asian man. As an adult, Goodman is lonely and single; he is also a well-known professor and television presenter whose show is devoted to debunking fraudulent psychics, which he regards as his life’s work to stop people’s lives being ruined by superstition the way his family’s were. He receives an invitation to visit a famed 1970s paranormal investigator, Charles Cameron, who inspired him as a boy, but who has been missing for decades and is now living in a caravan, sick and impoverished. Cameron asks him to investigate three incidents of supposedly real supernatural ghost sightings.
The first case is a night watchman, Tony Matthews, whose wife has died of cancer and who feels guilty that he stopped visiting his daughter, who suffers from locked-in syndrome. He was haunted by the spirit of a young girl while working in a disused asylum for women. The second is a teenager, Simon Rifkind, who is obsessed with the occult and has a poor relationship with his parents. His car breaks down after running over the Devil in the woods. Goodman, although unsettled by the second case, believes that each of them has an obvious rational explanation: the supposed victims imagined them, based on their neuroses. The third case is a financier in the City, Mike Priddle, who was plagued by a poltergeist while awaiting the birth of his child. His wife’s ghost appeared to him as she died giving birth to an (it is implied) inhuman child. Suddenly, the financier commits suicide with a shotgun.
Goodman returns to Cameron, who tears a latex mask off his face, revealing himself to be Priddle. Goodman at first believes that he is the victim of an elaborate hoax, but reality soon breaks down altogether. Priddle leads Goodman back in time to the scene of a childhood incident in which he watched two bullies entice a mentally disabled boy into a drain, where he died of an asthma attack. Goodman has felt guilty all his life about his failure to rescue the victim. The decaying corpse of the bullied boy appears, tormenting Goodman and leading him to a hospital bed, where he is made to lie down. The ghoul lies on top of him and forces his finger into Goodman’s mouth as Goodman cries “No, not again!” implying this is a recurring event.
In the real world, Goodman is comatose in a hospital with tubes in his mouth. He suffers from locked-in syndrome after a suicide attempt in his car. All the characters and events Goodman has experienced were inspired by the staff and objects in his hospital room. The doctors incorrectly believe that his persistent vegetative state allows him no awareness of his surroundings. The junior doctor predicts that Goodman is “here for keeps”, without a chance of recovery. As he leaves the room, the senior doctor says to his junior colleague: “I hope his dreams are sweet”. The hospital cleaner, in contrast, chats to Goodman and moves a mirror to give him a different view.
- Andy Nyman as Phillip Goodman, a famous professor and television presenter, whose show is devoted to debunking fraudulent psychics and explaining paranormal events.
- Samuel Bottomley portrays Phillip as a child.
- Martin Freeman as Mike Priddle/senior doctor
- Paul Whitehouse as Tony Matthews/hospital cleaner
- Alex Lawther as Simon Rifkind/junior doctor
- Nicholas Burns as Mark Van Rhys
- Jill Halfpenny as the voice of Peggy Van Rhys
- Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Father Emery
- Daniel Hill as Mr. Goodman
- Amy Doyle as Esther Goodman
- Ramzan Miah as Esther’s Boyfriend
- Emily Carding as Maria Priddle
- Paul Warren as Woolly
- Leonard Byrne as Charles Cameron
Ghost Stories was described by The Guardian as “an anthology of creepy supernatural tales in the intensely English tradition of Amicus portmanteau movies from the 1960s.” On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 82% based on 98 reviews, and an average rating of 7.2/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “Ghost Stories offers a well-crafted, skillfully told horror anthology that cleverly toys with genre tropes while adding a few devilishly frightful twists.” On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 69 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating “generally favourable reviews.”