M.L. Miller here! As I go into my tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Seven of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2017 and going through September 30, 2018. I have posted Best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on April 20, 2018. Available on Blu-ray/DVD, On Demand, and digital download from IFC Midnight/The Shout Factory! Also streaming on Hulu!
GHOST STORIES (2018)
Directed by Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Written by Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Starring Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther, Paul Warren, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Nicholas Burns, Louise Atkins, Lesley Harcourt, Amy Doyle, Deborah Wastell, Daniel Hill, Christine Dalby, Maggie McCarthy, Joe Osborne, Joe Osborne, Maria Major, Emily Carding, Leonard Byrne, Macie Allen, Ryan Oliva, Samuel Bottomley, Jake Davies, Oliver Woollford, Callum Goulden, Mike Aarons, Derren Brown, Elaine Dyson, Jill Halfpenny
GHOST STORIES is a brilliant little film that relies on the strength of the story itself that creep slowly under your skin rather than cheap jump starts and noise bangs that might cause a momentary shock but fade quickly. GHOST STORIES relies on solid acting, perfect pacing, and truly disturbing imagery in order to tell a unique tale of the paranormal that ends up being unpredictable right up until the end.
Professional paranormal sceptic Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman) has made it his mission to prove psychic and paranormal enthusiasts wrong, but when three files fall into his lap that defy debunking from his predecessor, Goodman goes on a mission to interview them himself. This takes him to three men with three very different hauntings. An anthology of sorts, these three hauntings merge into one tale of belief, destiny, and the supernatural.
GHOST STORIES is a complex, lyrical, and downright poetic throwback story reminiscent of the Amicus and Hammer tales of old. It doesn’t rely on cheap gimmicks or jolts. It relies on solid storytelling, as each of the men Goodman meets guides him and the viewer through a story filled with specters and ghosts. Even though these are three separate stories, they all fit together as puzzle pieces to a greater jigsaw puzzle, we never knew we were playing. I am sorry to be cryptic, but the fun in GHOST STORIES comes from the structure of it all from a storytelling standpoint.
But even though the way these pieces/stories fit together is pretty keen, the stories themselves work all on their own. All of the tales focus on one man’s night with the macabre, but because each of the men are at different stages of their lives, their responses to the paranormal are quite different. So when an elderly night watchman ((Paul Whitehouse) encounters spooky happenings an abandoned warehouse he is assigned to, it is quite different than when a shaky young kid ((Black Mirror’s Alex Lawther) encounters some sort of woodland monsters on his way home from a night of sneaking out with his girlfriend, and that is quite different from the tale of woe and supernatural that a middle aged married man (Martin Freeman) tells Goodman about his wife’s miscarriage and the return of that baby to his home. All of these segments are deftly acted and profoundly scary all using the placement of words in the narration, fantastically atmospheric direction, and scares that are more potent than any Blumhouse jumpfest.
Even though co-writer/co-director Andy Nyman is not your typical lead, he does a bang-up job here as Goodman. He lends a professorial sort of investigative technique that makes things fun as his journey from disbeliever to believer is a profound one. The presence of Martin Freeman in a film is never a bad thing. His everyman way of going about things is ominous and fun here. And though I often know him for his goofier roles, he plays everything straight here with some cheeky humor here and there, but most of the time, he is as terrified as the viewer during his highly personal story. Alex Lawther is amazing as the quivering kid who is trapped in his own haunted world and Paul Whitehouse shines as a man who has lost his will to live because of his horrific night and has given up to drinking. All of these performances make GHOST STORIES all the more fun to experience as scares resonate much more from talented actors.
GHOST STORIES plays out like a song—one that will definitely stick in your brain after you’ve experienced it. Its scares are potent and carry weight and the final beats make every last nuance worth it. I highly recommend you check out this modern-day masterclass in horror storytelling.
THE 2017-2018 COUNTDOWN!
#9 – GHOST STORIES
#10 – ANNIHILATION
#11 – FAKE BLOOD
#12 – MON MON MON MONSTERS
#13 – THE ENDLESS
#14 – THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
#15 – LET HER OUT
#16 – FOUND FOOTAGE 3D
#17 – DOWNRANGE
#18 – BLACK HOLLOW CAGE
#19 – HAPPY DEATH DAY
#20 – MOM & DAD
#21 – THE LANDING
#22 – TONIGHT SHE COMES
#23 – THE RITUAL
#24 – THE BABYSITTER
#25 – MARROWBONE
#26 – BETTER WATCH OUT
#27 – THE NIGHT EATS THE WORLD
#28 – BE MY CAT: A FILM FOR ANNE
#29 – PYEWACKET
#30 – TERRIFIER
#31 – MAYHEM
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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