Ghost Stories

One of my favourite movies, and one which I often try to implore people to watch, is the 1945 Ealing portmanteau horror, The Dead of Night. The anthology horror flick is one that has persisted pretty well, with Tales from the Crypt and recent outings such as VHS, XX and Southbound. The best of these has a strong overarching narrative, rather than just a collection of loosely related stories.

Ghost Stories is in the best tradition of these, and so right up my street, we practically have adjoining drives. It centres on paranormal debunker Professor Goodman, who receives a note from his hero, Charles Cameron, a previous investigator. He is handed a file, setting out three cases which Cameron couldn’t explain away. This neat narrative provides the structure for Goodman to be given accounts of the three supernatural events. Of these three, Martin Freeman’s poltergeist is the best of the bunch, and he plays the arrogant trader with relish.

But it is the ending that really pulls all the carefully woven threads involving numbers, dead birds, yellow coats and shopping bags together. This is the the key to a good portmanteau, to make them more than the sum of their parts. As the final credits roll, Goodman’s opening line of “We have to be so very careful what we believe in” takes on a different meaning.

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