American horror anthologies have been on the upswing in recent years, among them the V/H/S and ABCs of Death series, or the criminally underseen Southbound. Being very British, it figures that Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s horror anthology Ghost Stories is more in the vein of British portmanteau films like Dead of Night or The Vault of Horror. In actuality, it’s based on Dyson and Nyman’s own stage play which such films inspired, something that may account for why Ghost Stories often feels like a copy of an imitation.
Professor Goodman (co-director Nyman) is the host of a program that aggressively debunks psychics and other charlatans. He goes on to investigate three seemingly disparate claims, which leads him to a banker (Martin Freeman, certainly the reason the film is receiving domestic distribution) who challenges Goodman’s concept of reality. The structure of Ghost Stories allows stories to indulge in the Five Night at Freddies of it all, presenting creepy/jump-scare stuff without emotional context. To its credit, Ghost Stories never feels like a filmed play, and it’s a very well-shot movie in and of itself, including an homage to the cigarette-and-watch shot at the beginning of Alan Parker’s Pink Floyd The Wall. But by the time the mystery is solved at the end, it’s hard to care.
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.