Friday the 13th is upon us, the day we celebrate one of horror’s most ridiculous icons (right).
What better way to celebrate than by watching Ghost Stories, Jeremy Dyson (The League of Gentlemen) and Andy Nyman’s (Dead Set) adaptation of their brilliant stage show. It follows a sceptical professor (Nyman) through three spooky cases, involving a night watchman (Paul Whitehouse), a terrified teenager (Alex Lawther) and a bereaved banker (Martin Freeman).
Horror movies often struggle to sustain a narrative and scariness over 90 minutes, which is why short films can be much more effective than feature films. Ghost Stories is essentially three terrifying shorts in one anthology, tied together by a playful framing device that makes the movie feel like a feature-length Inside No. 9.
These are all classic horror tropes (asylums, poltergeists, bankers) and that’s really the point, harking back to the Amicus anthologies of the ’60s and ’70s. Ultimately Nyman and Dyson set out to scare you silly, and succeed in this spooky chiller that’ll have you quaking like Philip Hammond near some garlic. Or Theresa May near some members of the public.
Having worked extensively with Derren Brown (who appears in the film disguised as a woman) Nyman understands the power of suggestion, knowing exactly how little to show for maximum terror. And I’m not saying this is all Dyson contributes but it’s hard not to a detect a League of Gentlemen vibe in character names like Mike Priddle.
It was never going to surpass the ingeniously immersive stage show, but Ghost Stories retains that fairground ride quality of being scary fun throughout. With goosebumping build-ups, heart-racing payoffs and sound design that makes A Quiet Place look like A Quiet Passion, Ghost Stories will make you jump higher than a cat seeing a cucumber. Perfect Friday the 13th viewing.