The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Ghost Stories

At least two or three dozen horror movies come out every year. When you see most of them, you start to notice how similar they can look at times. That makes something like Ghost Stories stand out. This multi-part chiller utilizes familiar elements, while finding a unique way of tying them together. Genuine mystery is built into the film's core, which ensures that every time you think I've seen this before, you quickly realize, "Oh, wait, no I haven't!"

The movie hits Blu-ray from Scream Factory on September 4.

Andy Nyman (who also co-directed with Jeremy Dyson) plays Professor Phillip Goodman, a professional debunker of paranormal phenomenon. One day, he gets a meeting request from his idol, Charles Cameron, who went missing years prior and has been presumed to be dead. Cameron reveals that he's only been in hiding because he came across three separate cases he could not explain away. Now a believer in the supernatural, he asks Goodman to investigate each of them.

The first involves a night watchman in a gloomy old mental institution who claims to have seen something in one of the rooms. The second concerns a teenage boy driving down a country road late at night, experiencing terror after hitting something with his parents' car. The third and final case pertains to Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman), a man who had some bizarre things take place in his home while his pregnant wife was in the hospital.

No more should be said here, because Ghost Stories is genuinely surprising. Wherever you think this movie is going, you're wrong. Part of what makes it so effective is that the directors play with your expectations. The individual cases all build to a head, then cut off right before you get a full explanation for what's happening. You assume everything will be revealed in the end. It is, just not in the way you expect or with the kind of explanation you anticipate. The entire structure of the story is designed to be unpredictable, which makes it great fun to watch.

The three cases are interesting, but it's what happens after they're investigated by Goodman that makes Ghost Stories truly special. Without giving anything away, the film takes a spooky, surreal twist one that casts everything we've seen in a new light. It is here that unexpected depth is revealed. Nyman and Dyson have something to say about real-life terrors more disturbing than any ghost, spirit, or monster could ever be. Providing some good jolts is certainly a priority. Commenting on a fundamental part of human nature is an even bigger one.

Well-acted across the board, Ghost Stories particularly benefits from Martin Freeman's incredible performance. The actor is called upon to play a wide range of emotions and mentalities during the course of his story, each of which he handles with consummate skill. Where he ultimately takes the character will blow you away.

This is a stylishly-made picture, combining a retro horror feel with a modern sensibility. Best of all, it grounds itself in something identifiable, which only serves to make the whole thing even spookier. Ghost Stories is absolutely one of 2018's don't-miss-it horror events.

( 1/2 out of four)

Ghost Stories is unrated, but contains adult language and some violence. The running time is 1 hour and 38 minutes.

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