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John’s Horror Corner: Ghost Stories (2017), a horror anthology for beginners.

November 26, 2018

MY CALL: Basically, this is a well-made horror anthology for those not yet seasoned in gore or heavy terror. It’s pleasant, but the scares are mild and the dread has a low ceiling.

MORE HORROR ANTHOLOGIES: Dead of Night (1945), Black Sabbath (1963), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Vault of Horror (1973), The Uncanny (1977), Creepshow (1982), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye (1985), Deadtime Stories (1986), Creepshow 2 (1987), After Midnight (1989), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Two Evil Eyes (1990), Grimm Prairie Tales (1990), The Willies (1990), Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Campfire Tales (1997), 3 Extremes (2004), Creepshow 3 (2006), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Chillerama (2011), Little Deaths (2011), V/H/S (2012), The Theater Bizarre (2012), The ABCs of Death (2013), V/H/S 2 (2013), The Profane Exhibit (2013), The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), V/H/S Viral (2014), Southbound (2015), Tales of Halloween (2015), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), The ABCs of Death 2.5 (2016), Holidays (2016), Oats Studios, Vol. 1 (2017) and XX (2017).

The wraparound story focuses on a supernatural debunker—it’s a playful premise. Skeptical professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman; The ABCs of Death 2, Black Death) is fascinated by people’s belief in the supernatural and their willingness to believe charlatans. Often under such guises as making documentaries about psychic powers, Goodman investigates and uncovers fakes. After receiving a curious package from a famous long-missing fellow investigator containing three cases he couldn’t solve, Goodman sets out to collect witness accounts of these cases of apparitions. This anthology focuses on three cases, told first through the perspective of the victim and then fact-checked by Goodman. Of course, Goodman makes some interesting observations of his own (and for his own story) along the way…

Case 1: Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse; Corpse Bride). Tony is an overnight watchman in an abandoned building… and strange things happen. Typical tropes are followed—lights go out, human figures in the darkness elicit jump scares, disturbing imagery in the shadows, creepy mannequins and creepier kids. It’s a haunted house sort of short story, featuring but a single serving (i.e., one sighting/event) from what feels like a much larger, unexplored story.

Case 2: Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther; Black Mirror). Simon is a young man with peculiar parents and peculiar paranoia. Driving out in the woods one evening Simon hits some manner of goat-headed demon and flees the scene only to end up stranded with a stalled car. Awaiting roadside aid, Simon hears monstrous roars in the night and is terrorized by the creature. This “monster in the woods” or “evil enchanted forest” segment is far more comical than scary, with Simon attempting to defend himself (from a demon, mind you) with a rolled-up magazine and his swearing will undoubtedly provoke a giggle.

Case 3: Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman; Cargo, The World’s End, Hot Fuzz). A wealthy stock broker, Mike experiences a poltergeist after the loss of his wife during childbirth. He hears things going bump in the night, objects spontaneously stack themselves, and then things escalate… a lot.

Something of an oddity among horror anthologies is that these segments tend to have no origins, resolutions, or cautionary roles. They are simply accounts of strangeness and, as such, they feel rather incomplete; more like inklings of horror than segments in an anthology. They partially come together as the wraparound story unfolds in the end, but not in any manner that I found particularly satisfying. More just… cheeky.

Written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, this film is charmingly performed (particularly by star Andy Nyman) and captures the feisty exposé documentary style that I loved about The Last Exorcism (2010). But despite being well-acted and well-shot, this film feels like it’s for a less experienced (i.e., in horror) audience than me. Some reviewers have called this boring, but I beg to suggest it is actually that the nature (or maturity-level) of the horror simply isn’t at all intense—as if to titillate the fears of beginners to the genre (much like The Willies). I wouldn’t quite call this “young adult” horror, but more horror for those not yet seasoned in gore or terror. That said, anyone would be surprised by the “suicide scene.” That came out of nowhere! LOL

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