It somehow manages to simultaneously be the worst and best British horror film in years…
Are you as sick as we are about having to say “the film was brilliant, but white-washing ruined it”? To be honest, it’s getting tedious, and quite frankly, obvious now. In a world where we have Black Panther on the big screen and Dear White People on Netflix, majority white casts in Hollywood are beginning to stand out like a sore thumb.
The newest film that seems to do just that, is Ghost Stories. There are four main characters – three of which are white men. It must be said that the main character, Professor Phillip Goodman (played by Andy Nyman) is Jewish, and there are also huge hints that he’s gay so there is some attempt at diversity, but not really enough. For starters, if he is gay, it certainly isn’t a story line that’s explored in any way, shape or form, in fact it’s very much just a theory. Also, even with the lead character being Jewish, the film still feels extremely white cis male orientated.
There is barely a scene throughout the entire film with a woman. However, this inequality is intended, and it in fact does seem to work. Rather than showing off the macho side of a man, it explores the male anxiety when it’s at its most heightened point. It shows men being terrified, vulnerable, weak even, which is something that’s rarely seen in Hollywood. No one’s there to save them, and they can’t save themselves. Suddenly, they don’t have the power any more.
The film itself is simply magnificent. It gives you everything you want from a horror film. It makes you jump, it has you on the edge of your seat, it has moments of disbelief, and somehow it even makes you laugh.
“It makes you jump, it has you on the edge of your seat, it has moments of disbelief, and somehow it even makes you laugh.”
It centres around Phillip Goodman, a sceptic of the afterworld. In simple terms, his ideology is that everything can be explained, so the idea of spirits and ghosts haunting people’s lives is utter nonsense. But when a man that he idolised as a child for actively disbelieving in any paranormal activity, invites him to visit, he can’t pass up the chance. Charles Cameron is sick and has been missing for years when Phillip receives this invite, but Charles pleads with him to investigate three cases of supernatural happenings that he couldn’t find a logical answer for. Andy believes he finds a logical answer to each of the three cases, but it turns out this story was much more about Andy himself than anyone could have imagined.
There is an underlying dark humour running through the film that comes from the British personality surrounding it. The perfect scene that sums this up is when Simon Rifkind (played by Alex Lawther) is sitting in his broken down car, when the devil himself climbs in. While Simon attempts to escape and the devil tells him to stay, Simon simply shouts “fuck that” and runs for the high hills. It creates the perfect symmetry between taking the piss out of horror films and recreating them in the most intriguing ways.
It must be said that Alex Lawther yet again gives an incredible performance. The weird, strange, odd, humorous, and quite frankly creepy way in which he portrays Simon makes you want the whole film to be about him. You look forward to the scenes with him in, he has you hiding behind your seat one minute and laughing your arse off the next. If he hadn’t already proved to people that he’s a rising genius in the art of acting, he has now.
Martin Freeman and Paul Whitehouse make up the rest of the main cast, and they both essentially play the same roles they always have done. Having said that, they play those roles well, and while Whitehouse shows us a much more vulnerable side than we’ve ever seen before, Freeman absolutely commands the latter parts of the film.
It’s not groundbreaking by any means when it comes to diversity. In fact it’s probably one of the poorest attempts at creating a diverse film in a long time. But to counteract that, it truly is a groundbreaking horror film. It’s like no other, you walk out of the cinema discussing it for hours after, and it manages to thrill you from the very first minute to the very last.
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