The portmanteau horror film returns in this classy piece of British cinema starring Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther and Andy Nyman (who co-directed along with Jeremy Dyson) and a very welcome return it is too. In the 1960’s and 70’s the portmanteau was a regular feature on the big screen with films like “Dr Terror’s House of Horrors”, “The Vault of Horror” and “Tales from the Crypt” all proving to be wildly popular with audiences of the time…and going on to enjoy cult status among horror film aficionado’s.
Starting life as a stage play written by Nyman and Dyson the film centres around the James Randi like Professor Goodman (Nyman) who we meet at the film’s start debunking a stage psychic who is receiving information on the audience members via a hidden earpiece…undoubtedly based on Peter Popoff, a faith healer who used exactly this technique and who was debunked by Randi. From there we see Goodman attempt to explain away three sinister tales he is presented with by the sceptic who inspired his own career…three cases that he cannot explain.
The first of these tales centres around night watchman Tony (Paul Whitehouse) who finds his life unravelling following a terrifying encounter in the abandoned former “nut house for girls” that he is guarding. The ghoulish figure of a little girl in a yellow dress proves to be a recurring theme throughout the film. The second story is that of the emotionally shattered Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther) who has been confronted with something beastly in the woods on a drive home. The final story features Martin Freeman as Mike Friddle, a successful city boy who finds himself in the middle of a “Rosemary’s Baby” style tale.
The stories are exactly what they are billed as…ghostly tales. Torture porn is off the menu and unlike many modern American horror films everything here is delivered with a certain realist feel and a level of subtlety that is refreshing.
There are nods to Hitchcock throughout as well as references to other horror films that make the prospect of a second viewing something I’m really excited about. I wonder if the marketing department have thought about handing out “Intertextual References Bingo” cards?
With strong performances from everyone (especially Paul Whitehouse), some genuine scares and a really strong visual identity “Ghost Stories” is a treat for fans of horror and fans of quality cinema in general