Late Night Stargazing

On Friday night I ventured to my local multiplex to watch Ghost Stories.

There’s a few films that have come out recently which are on my must-see list, but this was top of the pile, because of the involvement of the writers, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman.

To fill in the blanks about why their names would interest me: Dyson is the (usually) unseen fourth member of The League of Gentlemen, and Nyman co-writes much of Derren Brown’s output. Which seemed a pretty good pedigree for me to pay attention to.

Oh, and don’t worry, there’ll be no spoilers here.

And there’s a reason I say that: for the film Ghost Stories is the natural progression from the very successful play of the same name, which I never managed to see, but much as with the long-running The Mousetrap, the audience were asked not to give anything away, and the same is true of the film version.

So, without giving too much away, here’s the premise: Professor Goodman (Nyman), who makes a living exposing charlatan psychics and the like, is handed a case book of three stories to investigate which are likely to change his sceptical mind.

And so we see the stories in question played out, each terrifying….and then…well, let’s say they’re followed by more twists and turns than, to quote Blackadder, a twisty-turny thing.

Best of the three stories, in my book, starred Paul Whitehouse as a night watchman, and it’s here that the tension is ramped up to excruciating lengths.

My issue with the film is that it was clearly made by horror buffs, and as one myself I found myself constantly waiting for the Hitchcockian trait, the mild scare followed by a moment’s relief, followed by a bigger scare. I found my eyes drawn towards props and artefacts deliberately briefly focussed upon, placed and to catch my attention, but which may, or may not, have had any bearing on the stories.

The Whitehouse story manages to dodge this, the whole segment a constantly building feeling of dread, darkness and claustrophobia, and when it finished, I found myself letting my guard down a little, so much so that the next two stories, whilst shorter, and figuring I’d already passed the worst, provided shock and surpise too.

Wrong.

The thing with horror buffs making a horror movie is that they know how to mess with your head – imagine if the Scream series had been made by the Hammer House and not played for knowing laughs – and Dyson and Nyman know exactly what they’re doing when the first of many volte-faces happen.

I’ll say no more than that other than: I loved it. There was a circularity to the story-line that I really liked, questions answered in the final throes of the film, that pleased.

And there was at least one jump out of your seat moment (for me – luckily, I’d already parked my popcorn on the empty chair next to me), and many more than that if you count the noises I heard from different parts of the theatre throughout.

A tune, then, and a tune that I love, but if I’m honest is absolutely saved from Hersh’s swivel-eyed madness by Michael Stipe’s backing vocal:

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Kristen Hersh – Your Ghost

More soon.

Oh, and go see.

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