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Film / Ghost Stories (2017)

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Be careful what you believe.

"Please, Professor Goodman. Tell me I'm wrong. I need you to tell me I'm wrong."
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Ghost Stories is a 2017 supernatural Horror film written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, adapted from their successful stage play. Starring Andy Nyman as Professor Phillip Goodman, a present day professional skeptic who debunks stage psychics and mediums. Goodman was heavily influenced in his youth by another professional skeptic, Dr. Charles Cameron, who vanished without a trace sometime in the 70s. When Professor Goodman is contacted by Dr. Cameron (ill, elderly, and seemingly at death's door, but certainly not missing), he insults Goodman's body of work, calls his own work shameful, and asks Goodman to investigate 3 supernatural cases that have haunted him since his disappearance. The investigations themselves are disturbing and unsettling, and all the while there are subtle background clues that something else is going on.

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A loving homage to the Amicus Productions anthology films of the 60s and 70s, Ghost Stories captures the British aesthetic of those films, while still retaining its modern sensibility. Features a rather nasty Twist Ending.


This film provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital: Tony's story is set in one of these.
  • Adult Fear: The movie is very concerned with tragic events that completely change the course of our lives (which, arguably, is it's own kind of Existential Horror), but there is a more specific type of Adult Fear that it taps into at the end, when it's revealed that Paul is suffering from locked-in syndrome after a botched suicide attempt, and is now doomed to live out the fragmented, guilt-ridden dreams that have become his reality.
  • Animalistic Abomination: Whatever it is that Simon hits with his car, it certainly qualifies.
  • Arc Words:
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    • "The brain sees what it wants to see."
    • "Be careful what you believe in."
  • Bedsheet Ghost: A particularly upsetting one in Mike Priddle's story.
  • Bungled Suicide: It's revealed at the end of the film that Professor Goodman attempted suicide by breathing in exhaust fumes, as he was unable to live with the guilt that his choices have left him with.
  • Campbell Country: This is a British film through and through. The costuming of the characters is modern, but leans into an aesthetic that reminds you of the setting, with a lot of wool sweaters and flat caps. Mike Priddle loads a shotgun stored in a weathered shed that stands in a muddy, windswept field. Tony Matthews talks to Goodman over a pint of beer, a glass of whiskey, and a hand-rolled cigarette. The end result is a movie that truly feels like no other country could have produced it, in the best possible way.
  • Cat Scare: Tony's happens with a pigeon.
  • Creepy Doll: Doubling as The Blank, there is a faceless, brown-haired doll wearing a yellow dress that recurs throughout the film.
  • Creepily Long Arms: A subtle example (especially when compared to other works with this trope) in Mike's baby son, who is heavily implied to be some kind of inhuman abomination.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: The goat-creature that Simon hits eventually winds up in the seat behind him after first stalking him and jumping on top of his car.
  • Darkness = Death: Interestingly, this movie uses both this trope and Daylight Horror (see below), although it does use darkness more than it uses daylight in all three of the stories the film presents.
  • Daylight Horror: The suspense that comes during the day is more subtle than the kind that happens when it's dark, but it's there regardless.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Professor Goodman when Callahan is dragging him to his hospital bed.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mike Priddle at the end of his story - foreshadowing for Goodman's actual suicide attempt.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: Professor Goodman has been in a coma all along and the ghost stories are his brain's attempts to process his guilt over his choices in life.
  • Existential Horror: Lightly touched on throughout the movie, but brought into sharp focus with the twist at the end where it's made clear that the real horror of this story falls much closer to And I Must Scream than the supernatural premise the movie starts with.
  • Foreshadowing: Lots of clues alluding to the twist ending are peppered throughout the three cases.
  • Ghost Story: As you might have guessed from the title, this movie has a reverent love for ghost stories and the tropes that go with them.
  • Ghostly Chill: In all three of the case investigations, there are points where the temperature drops due to ghost activity. In Mike Priddle's story, he can see his own breath.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Simon's experience has left him more than a little disturbed.
  • Inspired by...: Amicus Productions mainly, but there are a great many references to famous horror films for those who pay attention.
  • Jump Scare: A few - Starting with the film title!
  • Karma Houdini: Nico and Marcus, the two bullies who caused Callahan's death, aren't shown facing any consequences for what they did.
  • Kill the Lights: The ghost that stalks Tony is not a fan of the light.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: There's something off about Simon's house and his parents' behaviour, enough to unsettle Professor Goodman.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Too many to count. Or notice on your first watch.
  • My Greatest Failure:
    • Dr. Cameron considers his work in debunking the supernatural to be shameful, due to coming across three cases he couldn't explain away.
    • It's revealed towards the end that Professor Goodman feels incredibly guilty about not saving a mentally-handicapped boy who died of an asthma attack.
  • Mood-Swinger: Interviewing Tony Matthews is an uncomfortable experience due to his frequent shifts into a hostile (if not actually menacing) demeanor.
  • Mundane Horror
  • Nightmare Face: Quite a few.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • This movie takes full advantage of the power of the audience's imagination. During Tony Matthews' story, neither Tony nor the viewer see anything at all for the majority of the scene, but it's teeth-grindingly suspenseful and frightening.
    • The creature that attacks Simon has one Extreme Closeup, and in for the rest of Simon's story it's only seen in quick flashes and from far away.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Goodman's face when he sees the tunnel entrance.
    • Simon's face when he sees the back door of the car is open.
  • Personal Horror: Every major character wrestles with this in different ways, including and especially Paul Goodman.
  • Rewatch Bonus: So, so many.
  • Spooky Photographs: On the way up to Simon's bedroom, some of his photographs catch Paul's eye. Arguably Harsher in Hindsight, like many aspects of this movie.
  • Tentative Light: As the lights go out around him, Tony's flashlight begins to flicker as well.
  • The Reveal: The dead and rotting Callahan grabs hold of Paul's coat, and rips all his clothing away to reveal a hospital gown, confirming that Paul is in a coma and the movie so far has been the fractured projections of his guilt-ridden, fearful brain.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Simon's bedroom doesn't suggest a healthy, well-balanced view of life.
  • Spooky Photographs: One on the stairs in Simon's house catches Goodman's attention.
  • Undead Child: The girl in the yellow dress in Tony's story.

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