A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ghost Stories is an English horror anthology that's probably weirder than it is scary, but it might appeal to the more adventurous horror fans among older teens. Language is the biggest issue, with several uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. There are also plenty of jump scares and scenes of unsettling, scary stuff. A man shoots himself in the head, and there are scenes with fits of rage, death, and a car hitting something in the woods. Bullies pick on a developmentally disabled boy. Background/social drinking and smoking are shown from time to time, and bullies are shown smoking. Sex isn't really an issue. Martin Freeman co-stars.
What's the story?
In GHOST STORIES, Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman) is the star of a TV show that debunks supernatural and paranormal phenomena. He's invited to meet with Charles Cameron (Leonard Byrne), a paranormal investigator who originally inspired him, and Cameron gives Goodman a file containing three unsolved cases. The first involves a security guard (Paul Whitehouse) who sees a ghost while working the night shift in an old asylum. The second is about a teen boy (Alex Lawther) who claims to have hit something unholy in the woods with his car. And the third is Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman), an expectant father who received a visit from a poltergeist. Goodman returns to Cameron, claiming that all three cases are easily explainable via psychological means, but Cameron has at least one more shocking surprise up his sleeve.
Is it any good?
This old-fashioned horror anthology isn't terrifying or scream-inducing; instead, it's closer in spirit to the moody, clammy, atmospheric English movies of decades past that lovingly inspired it. Nyman and Jeremy Dyson co-wrote and co-directed Ghost Stories based on their hit stage play, and what the movie lacks in that real-life theatrical connection it makes up for in eerie, clever cinematography and editing. The asylum in the first segment consists of pitch-black corridors running off into infinity, but it's far from neat and tidy; it's littered with decades of sinister refuse. The teen boy's room is decorated with occult drawings of demons and monsters, making a simple doorway seem terribly unsettling.
Weirdly, one of the movie's creepiest sequences takes place in an open field in broad daylight. The filmmakers beautifully use the on-screen and the offscreen, the seen and the unseen, sounds and clever cuts to suggest, rather than show, its horrors. Still, anthology horror movies usually have a weak spot, and here it's the wraparound story. But even though savvy horror fans may groan at how things unfold, Ghost Stories is so stylish and so satisfying that it gets by on spirit alone.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Ghost Stories' violence. How much is shown, and how much is implied or left offscreen? What part does sound play in the violence?
How scary is the movie? What's the appeal of horror movies?
How does the movie treat bullies? How are they handled? Can you think of other ways to address the situation?
The movie asserts that "the brain only sees what it wants to see." Do you think this is true? Why? Are there potential, rational solutions for everything, or could there be things we don't quite understand?
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