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'Ghost Stories' is way more than its scariest parts

"Ghost Stories" is now playing at the Landmark Ken Cinema through Thursday, May, 3. 

A traveling skeptic gets more than he bargained for when he investigates three cases of the paranormal in the horror gem “Ghost Stories” now playing through Thursday, May 3 at the Landmark Ken Cinema.

For those of you who, like me, think that anthologies are a bargain for the price of admission because they contain not one story, but several are in for a real treat with this moody and thoughtful homage inspired by chaptered films like “Creepshow” and “The Twilight Zone.”  

“Ghost Stories” gives almost everything away in its title. But this is more than just a collection of random supernatural tales, the film is effectively creepy and carries with it a patchwork of cautionary tales which deal with guilt and regret. 

Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman) is like the UK version of John Cusack’s paranormal investigator in “1402,” he exposes fakes for a living but in Goodman’s case he reveals and revels in exposing them through his popular TV show not in pulpy paperbacks like Cusack.  

One day Goodman gets a phone call from his idol and fellow skeptic Charles Cameron who he thought had died. Upon visiting the now-reclusive and extremely old man, he’s told that there are three hauntings that he was unable to expose as fakes in his career. He enlists the help of Goodman to continue the investigations in hopes to resolve what he couldn’t.

The first case file leads him to Tony Matthews, a night watchman who experiences several poltergeist-type occurrences during his shift late one night in a dank abandoned asylum.  

Case two involves an odd lad named Simon Rifkind who recalls being terrorized by a monster after hitting something while driving through a forest late one night.

Cold case three leads the professor to Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman) a wealthy man who encounters an aggressive spirit haunting his newborn’s empty crib.

It’s this last tale that catapults the anthology into a very different direction and the moral center of the story.

Loneliness seems to be the key theme in “Ghost Stories,” people who have experienced personal tragedies seclude themselves into the dark world of depression not only physically but mentally. The characters are distraught and terrified which Goodman concludes makes them hallucinate. End of story. Not really. 

Of course, no great anthology such as “Ghost Stories” would be complete without the storyteller having some involvement in the narrative, and our professor soon discovers that he may be the key to all three unsolved mysteries.  

Based on their stage play of the same name writer and director Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman have created a creepy little film in “Ghost Stories” where what seems at first to be a run-of-the mill spookfest is actually something of an existential experience.

Those who are expecting incorporeal shapes with sunken eyes, deteriorating flesh and guttural moans won’t be disappointed by the special effects. And the cinematography, although dimly lit in some scenes, is beautifully shot by Ole Bratt Birkland (The Crown).

Dyson and Nyman have obviously studied the genre of which they reference in “Ghost Stories” but they simmer the pot by adding depth, genuine uneasiness and thought-provoking situations to the stew. 

It’s always good to see Freeman onscreen and here he is able to use his low-key charm to a twisted degree. 

Nyman, as the curious professor, isn't as complicated as one would think, but there's a reason why and he is able to sustain the surprise until the very end. Afterall, he co-wrote the script. 

With its four-fold mystery and cautionary message, “Ghost Stories” is satisfying on multiple levels because of the talent that went into it. The film does have its share of jump scares, but it doesn’t rely on them to patronize the audience. Instead, the film weaves it’s multiple stories into a creepy collection of journeys that end up tied together with a solid knot.

"Ghost Stories" is now playing at the Landmark Ken Cinema through Thursday, May, 3.