Ghost Stories (2018)

“And it was going so good too.” That’s my initial reaction to the third act of “Ghost Stories” which feels like one gigantic cop out of a finale. You can reason that the creators wanted to introduce these esoteric ideas that come colliding, but I felt like “Ghost Stories” just ran out of ideas and just stopped trying. I’m also not a fan of the underlying message about how lack of belief is linked to being some kind of bitter individual with a horrible life. Either way I imagine the finale to “Ghost Stories” will be a very polarizing element in the horror movie world in 2018. I think some horror fans will defend its radical approach while others will lambast it for trying way too hard. I’m in the latter category. I didn’t buy its self important morality play.

The thing about horror anthologies is that they’re similar to sketches on comedy television. Sometimes it’s tough to write an ending and we’re never quite sure where the writers are going to take us. Sometimes it goes on too long and we’re anxious for it to close, and other times, the movie knows well enough to just end. Based on the stage play, “Ghost Stories” centers on Professor Philip Goodman. As played by Andy Nyman, he’s a man who spends his life debunking hucksters and alleged paranormal investigators. After a well renowned professor goes missing, he’s led to a mysterious location where he comes face to face with the man himself. He is now is a firm believer in the supernatural. Despite Philip’s protestations, he hands him three cases that have never been solved.

“Ghost Stories” is identified as an anthology but in reality it’s more an episodic horror movie in the vein of “Pulp Fiction” where scenarios begin and end. Among the tales there’s the inclusion of a night watchmen being terrorized by something in a burnt down building, a young man who crashes in to something in the middle of the road one night, and a poltergeist haunting a man the night of his wife’s labor. The stories just end without much of a send off, and it’s a shame since I appreciated their closing scenes (especially the opening story). “Ghost Stories” is not an awful anthology like “Holidays,” it just doesn’t know how to finish, and when it finally does, you’ll be wishing it had ended so much sooner than it does.

The trio of tales feels incredibly rushed and never has much of a pay off beyond a jump scare. And I’ll admit that the jump scares work beautifully since the direction and sound design are absolutely top notch. There’s also some remarkable cinematography that make every story feel wholly unique and eerie. I sat on edge through the trio of tales, and was sad when they never quite delivered. At almost a hundred minutes, “Ghost Stories” feels ten minutes too long and would have worked with a much tighter and ironic climax. Instead what we get is a derivative final act that’ll leave audiences thinking “What the hell is going on?” and send them off with “That’s it?” I wish I loved “Ghost Stories,” as its production quality is top notch, and its concept is excellent, it’s just so mediocre and anti-climactic in the end.

In theaters and on VOD.