GHOST STORIES, UK, 2017. Starring Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther, Paul Warren, Kobna Holdbrook Smith, Nicholas Burns. Directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman. 98 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes and coarse language).
The moral of this story, these stories, is that the mind sees and hears what the mind wants. (Perhaps?)
In fact, there are three case studies to be examined in this film – but, the film takes us beyond, into the world of the investigator of the cases, quite sceptical, ready and eager to explain every case in ordinary language, in psychological terms.
The investigator is played by actor Andy Nyman who, along with Jeremy Dyson, wrote this piece originally for the stage, for the theatre. They have now adapted it for the screen. Which means then that they can go into all kinds of realistic times and places, into the world of the case studies.
In fact, the film opens with Andy Nyman as Philip Goodman, exposing a mind reader on stage. Philip is also in admiration of another debunker of such ghost stories, Charles Cameron, who is seen showing an episode to be fake. But, Charles Cameron, seems to have disappeared and nobody knows where… When suddenly, Philip Goodman, receives a communication from him, summoning him to his smelly and old caravan. Goodman expects some praise but instead is criticised by Cameron – and given the folders for three cases and a challenge to solve them.
So, Of the audience goes with Goodman, to examine the three cases.
The first concerns a security guard played by Paul Whitehouse, a tough man who nevertheless is terrified by an apparition, the presence, of wife and daughter. Into flashback, into eerie atmospheres of an abandoned site at 4 o’clock in the morning, power going out, doors slamming, connections being pulled, and a man convinced that he has had a ghostly experience.
The second concerns a young man, Alex Lawther, bullied by his mother and father, keeping his door locked – and with all kinds of photos and posters of sinister and demonic presences. Into flashback, his driving along a country road having failed his driver’s test, his father phoning him continually, a sudden crash, fleeing into the forest, ominous presences.
And the third. Martin Freeman is a somewhat suave businessman, taking Goodman on a hike up a country hill. Into flashback, this time a rather spacious and wealthy mansion, the story of the businessman and his wife and her business competitiveness, becoming pregnant at 40, the call from a hospital, ominous.
So, there are the stories, with Goodman and his rational explanations, going back to Cameron – who pulls quite a surprise, unmasking himself.
That isn’t quite the end of the film – there had been home movies at the opening with Philip Goodman and his family, his Bar Mitzvah, his bullying father, and a visit to him in the home for the elderly. And then there is a story about Philip being bullied at school, a simple boy persuaded to go into a stormwater channel with some dire results, especially for Phillip himself who professes that he was helpless to do anything to help the boy…
Actually, the film is not over by any means and to go any further would be an abuse of spoiling the outcome, but, it does have a twist!
Icon/ Dendy Released October 25th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.