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Ghost Stories was a unique viewing experience for me, in that I liked it whilst watching it, right up until the last second. But as soon as I got up to leave the cinema, I started noticing things wrong with it. With every step home, I found myself liking it less and less. By the time of writing this review, Iím prepared to say it is an average and unremarkable film. If I review it again next week, Iíll probably say I hate it.
Ghost Stories is about a tv host who exposes paranormal hoaxes. He gets handed a trio of cases, and is told they will irrefutably prove the supernatural. Thus we are shown three separate ghost stories, acted out by three familiar actors. In Ghost Stories` favour, these are well visualised, well acted yarns with a good blend of comedy and horror. The stand out performance is Alex Lawther, as a hapless teenager on the edge of a nervous breakdown, whom we can't help but laugh at and route for. Itís also nice to see a ghost story take place only miles from my childhood town in Yorkshire (which, for those not from God's own county, includes such bizarre locales as a caravan site gradually falling off of a cliff and into the sea).
So whatís wrong? Well it reminds me a lot of the worst Black Mirror or Behind Number 9 episodes, a factor not helped by the shows sharing much of the same cast. Like in some Black Mirror episodes, there is an element mystery and a gradual build up, with lots of clues and threads for the viewer to clutch on to and think about. Also like Black Mirror it all culminates in a wicked, arbitrary twist built to punish the protagonist for no good reason. Itís a product of convenient, easy writing, whereby every useful clue is a red herring, and every weird happenstance or hint finally leads to an impossible to predict, deeply unsatisfying solution; one that summarises everything whilst making little sense in itself. Think White Bear and you are on the right track. I am aware people generally like Black Mirror, so let that be the litmus test. If you hated that episode, youíll hate this. Ghost Stories might seem like a good ride, but afterwards you'll be wondering if it was all worth it.
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