Review: Ghost Stories
Not your usual campfire stories!The Geets (greats):
Nyman's distinctly innovative Horror movie just proves how build up of suspense and a convoluted narrative creates terror beyond the realms of contemporary Horror. The movie as a whole deserves a standing ovation for embracing a new and innovative technique to inducing fear deep into the skin of its viewers.
The plot is quite simple but gets overtly convoluted as it progresses. A paranormal skeptic (Phillip) is given 3 cases to disprove. As Phillip continues further through the cases the pure ambiguity and convolutions drives the narrative into complete disillusionment, something that strangely works effectively in this movie. Most movies rely on re-construction of a convoluted narrative for exposition and intellectual effectiveness. However, a simple plot, in this movie, becomes convoluted and more vague as it progresses making the viewer question every fine detail which is portrayed.
This movie concludes with Phillip ultimately being comatose and fabricating these 'ghost stories'. As such, this explains the inconsistencies and vagueness of the stories as they progress. Furthermore, some of the characters which appear in these stories turn out to be real people within the Hospital context within which he is being treated.
Equally more effective is the intellectually satisfying way that Nyman constructs and weaves the ghost stories as their own unique narrative. The presence of ambiguity is perfectly maintained throughout as is the suspense, which follows a more unique build up, one where it doesn't follow the formulaic Horror movie scares of 21st century. The effectiveness of the scares are driven more by the sublime exposition of the context.
Each of the cases are definitely unique in their own right, relying more own Phillip hearing accounts from the witnesses and leaving a lot to our minds of the endless possibilities. The ways that each of the witnesses' narratives are depicted is illustrated by pure ambiguity yet has the effect of drawing the audience member in, completely invested in where it will go. Case 1 is illustrated perfectly by making full use of the dark, abandoned Asylum interiors, especially creating the atmosphere of fear induced by random noises. Case 2 seems even more ambiguous, with further de-construction of events and poses further speculations of what is real and what isn't. The final case, although weak, again uniquely drives terror through perfection of acting and ambiguity.
I was inspired by the way Nyman captured the sense of ambiguity in each case and events unfolding upon Phillip, further derailing from a 'linear' view of these stories. It almost seems like you can feel the frustration he feels with the subjective validity given to each narrative by the witnesses. This movie succeeds in creating spine-tingling terror more through convoluted narrative and performance-driven storytelling than cheap scares.
The Phads (bads):
Despite some excellent storytelling and build up of suspense, this movie lacks an effective exposition necessary to interweave the different narratives. Even though I commend the efforts to expose this all as a fabrication of a comatose patient, I feel like this could have been better off as a stand-alone Horror anthology film. The different stories had the uniqueness and intricate suspense to shine on their own rather than be fabricated in reality.
At the same time, the movie loses its stronghold on storytelling efficacy and suspense towards the last case and the subsequent expositional events. In other words, the storyline suggesting Phillip's inclusion in a person's accidental death as the cause of his mental trauma lacks the intellectual investment to fully appreciate it.
As the fabricated Mike continually de-constructs Phillips supposed reality through expositionary responses, I can't help but feel robbed of the unique experience that this movie was indulging me with, as well as feeling the sense of fragmented realities as if the last 80 minutes were false. Similar to Fractured (2019), the ending just didn't give me the intellectual satisfaction due to the fact that both movies succeeded so perfectly in the first 3/4th with excellent dialogue and advancing narrative.