• Ghost Stories (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory/IFC
    Released on: September 4th, 2018.
    Director: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
    Cast: Martin Freeman, Alex Lawther, Paul Whitehouse, Andy Nyman
    Year: 2017
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    Ghost Stories – Movie Review:

    Co-written and co-directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman and based on their own stage play, 2017’s Ghost Stories introduces us to Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman), a man who has rejected not only his Jewish roots but the belief in anything supernatural. In fact, Goodman makes his living writing books that disprove things like UFO’s and the paranormal and by exposing fraudulent TV tricksters in a show called Psychic Cheats. One of Goodman’s main influences was Charles Cameron (Leonard Byrne), a man who laid the groundwork for the type of thing he does today. Cameron’s been missing and presumed dead for decades so when Goodman gets an invitation to come visit him at the seaside trailer he’s been hiding out in for all these years, he jumps at the chance. When he arrives, the surly old man tells him that he’s wrong – the supernatural is very real, and he’s got three cases for Goodman that he knows he won’t be able to debunk.

    This sets in motion the anthology format, as Goodman goes about meeting with the people from the cases handed to him by Cameron. First up is a night watchman named Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse). He’s been a widower for years and his only daughter has been in the hospital almost as long. One night, while at his post at a mental hospital for women, he came face to face with a frightening apparition. From there, Goodman interviews Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther), a young man with a penchant for lying to his parents. We see first hand what happened to him when he hit ‘something’ while driving home from a party through the dark woods. The third case revolves around Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman), a banker with more money than he knows what to do with. Things got strange for him when a poltergeist starting wreaking havoc in his home right around the time his wife became pregnant.

    As the three stories play out, Goodman’s experiences seem to tie back in to his own childhood and his mantra of "the brain sees what it wants to see" becomes put to the test.

    A nice mix of both style and substance, Ghost Stories plays things reasonably straight and never tries to reinvent the genre. Still, it does what it does quite well, never truly terrifying the audience but doing a very fine job of building strong scenes of suspense thanks to some quality writing, interesting characters, strong performances and very good camerawork. Goodman is the core of all of this, and Nyman plays the part well. We’re given enough background on him that we see where he’s coming from and why, which ties together quite nicely to the big reveal that comes in the film’s last fifteen-minutes or so. Those with an eye for detail will be rewarded, as the film does offer up some subtle and unexpected foreshadowing that also ties into the finish – if you pay attention you’ll notice these elements early in the film, but you won’t know why they stood out to you until the picture ends.

    Nyman makes for a good lead. He looks like enough of a ‘professor’ to succeed in the part and he carries the film well enough. He brings the right amount of arrogance to Goodman that we question him sometimes, as do the characters that he interacts with. He’s a man who seems to take great pleasure in knocking others down for their beliefs, explaining things away without really pondering the circumstances as much as he probably should have. Paul Whitehouse does fine work as the surly night watchman and Alex Lawther is just fine as the twitchy, nervous teenaged Rifkind. Martin Freeman, not surprisingly steals most of the scenes that he’s involved in. His character is calm, cool and collected – at least it seems that way when we first meet him, but as the story plays out and things evolve, his performance changes accordingly.

    Some impressive visuals, combined with a couple of traditional jump scares, do a fine job of building atmosphere. There are some really beautiful widescreen shots here that contrast interestingly with the sense of dread that the picture manages to build. The film’s anthology format plays out as one big story rather than separate chapters, so it’s a bit different than say, something like The House That Dripped Blood, but it is structed well and allows for some quality storytelling to unfold.

    Ghost Stories – Blu-ray Review:

    Ghost Stories arrives on Blu-ray framed at 2.40.1 in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Shot digitally, there’s no print damage or grain here. The image is spotless, as you’d expect, and it generally shows very strong detail. Some of the darker scenes are intentionally a bit less detailed as the better lit scenes are, but that goes hand in hand with the tone of the film, it isn’t a flaw in the image. The film benefits from some strong cinematography and we get really good depth and texture in the image. Compression artifacts are never an issues and aside from a few shots that show some mild shimmer, the image is excellent.

    The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, in the film’s native English, also sounds very good. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion and there’s some nice surround activity evident in the film’s more active scenes. Bass response is strong and tight while dialogue remains easy to understand and perfectly clear. The score has good presence to it and the levels are properly balanced throughout. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras are slim, limited to a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. Trailers for a few other IFC horror titles play before the main menus load. The disc comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase that fits inside a slipcover.

    Ghost Stories – The Final Word:

    Ghost Stories may not reinvent the wheel but it is an interesting and entertaining genre picture that benefits from strong production values, good acting and an intelligent script. The Blu-ray release is disappointingly light on extras but it looks and sounds very good. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Ghost Stories Blu-ray review screen captures!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      I really wanted to like this one better than I did. It kind of fell flat at the end for me, although it did have a few creepy moments.