Ghost Stories: The brain sees what it wants to see

Riley Riley

Professor Phillip Goodman is for want of a better description a professional skeptic.

He doesn’t believe in ghosts or any supernatural phenomena for that matter, and spends his life exposing phonies as part of his TV show Psychic Cheats.

But his scepticism, his believe in himself and indeed his very sanity are put to the test when he is presented with three chilling and inexplicable case studies.

They come from someone whom he holds in the highest esteem, renowned psychologist Charles Cameron, who like himself forged a career out of disproving paranormal claims — that is until he disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

Goodman receives a package containing an audio-cassette from Cameron, who invites him to meet in a caravan that he lives in overlooking a forlorn coastline.

The aging Cameron confesses that he was an arrogant for dismissing the possibility that paranormal activity could be real and denounces the TV host as a conceited coward for following the same path.

He presents him with a folder containing the files from three cases that he cannot account for and challenges him to prove they aren’t authentic.

Unable to resist, Goodman takes the files and so the stage is set.

Released in 2018, Ghost Stories stars Andy Nyman as Philip Goodman and Martin Freeman as Charles Cameron/Mike Priddle.

Neil Finnighan is security guard Tony Matthews, while Alex Lawther plays terrified teenager Simon Rifkind.

The movie was written and directed by and Andy Nyman and based on their 2010 stage play of the same name.

In the first case, Goodman interviews night watchman Tony Matthews.

He tells him about a terrifying night he spent as a security guard in a old disused asylum.

When the power fails, he is forced to explore the depths of the spooky old building and encounters a ghoulish girl in a yellow dress who hugs him and calls him “dada.”

Goodman later visits the nightwatchman’s parish priest, who tells him that after the terrifying encounter Matthews visited his catatonic daughter in the hospital.

Doctors observed that when she heard her father’s voice, her heart skipped a beat.

As a result, Goodman decides to pay his own invalid father a visit.

The second case involves a teenager named Simon Rifkind who tells him about a terrifying encounter of his own.

Locked in his bedroom, he recounts how he was driving his parents’ car alone and unlicensed along a dark country road.

Distracted by phone calls from his parents, wanting to know where he is — he runs into someone or something.

Frightened, he flees the scene of the accident, but becomes stranded when the car breaks down.

While he waits for roadside assistance to arrive, he is stalked by an unseen creature that growls the word “stay” at him.

Goodman later visits the scene of the incident and upon returning to his car, becomes disoriented when he catches sight of a ghostly vision of himself in the car window.

In the third and final case, the TV host pays a visit to a country gentleman named Mike Priddle, who tells him about a paranormal experience he had alone in his country home while his very pregnant wife Maria was in the hospital.

It’s at this point that our tale takes a sudden and unexpected turn, when Goodman spies a hooded figure some distance away — the same hooded figure that he recognises from a photograph in the room of the teenager he visited previously.

Shotgun in hand Priddle then tells him about a second night alone during which a shape takes form underneath a sheet in the crib waiting for their baby.

He’s then confronted by a monstrous version of his wife who reveals the real Maria is dead.

Minutes later he receives a phone call from the hospital to say his wife has died during childbirth.

We can’t tell you what happens next, suffice to say you won’t see it coming.

And so Goodman returns to discuss his findings with Cameron.

This is when things really start to get really weird.

Ghost Stories premiered at the London Film Festival on October 5, 2017 and was released nationwide in the United Kingdom on April 6, 2018 by Lionsgate.

In an interesting item of trivia, its title was misspelled on purpose as “Ghost Storeis” in much of the pre-release publicity.

This was done in line with the production’s catchphrase: “The brain sees what it wants to see.”

Ghost Stories is one of the quirky, low budget films that the British seem so good at producing.

As long as you don’t expect too much, you won’t be disappointed.

It provides an enjoyable 98 minutes of entertainment, with plenty twists and turns and spooky moments that will have you cringing.

English actor Martin Freeman plays the dual roles of Charles Cameron and Mike Priddle.

Freeman, Nyman and a couple of others, apparently fooled the rest of the cast into believing the character of Charles Cameron was another actor named Leonard Byrne — when it was really just Freeman in a prosthetic mask.

Freeman is probably best known for his portrayal of Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson‘s The Hobbit film trilogy.

He also played Tim Canterbury in the original UK version of the mockumentary The Office (2001), Dr John Watson in the British crime drama Sherlock (2010) and Lester Nygaard in the dark comedy-crime drama TV series Fargo (2014).

Andy Nyman is an actor and writer, known for Judy (2019), Ghost Stories (2017) and Death at a Funeral (2007).

Jeremy Dyson appears uncredited as the DJ at Philip’s Bar Mitzvah.

Ghost Stories can be seen for free on ABC iView.


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Time out score

Final thoughts . . .

Ghost Stories is a low-key, horror anthology that will keep you guessing right up to the end.


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