As a victim of some misguided hype, Ghost Stories is really quite the disappointment for the horror aficionado. The promised ‘extreme shock and tension’ is a baffling assurance, for, what we have here is far from a true horror production; one can only imagine that those never exposed to the genre could possibly find more than one scare to enjoy, and there is little evidence to imply that writers Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman accounted for these factors.
In fact, Ghost Stories is more a psychological journey, the titular tales a complement to the core elements of guilt and denial, as opposed to drivers. And, the concept itself is excellent. It is just unfortunate that the plot itself is too basic to effectively carry it; the script is restricted by the limited possibilities of its climax. As such, the balance of build-up to pay-off swings wildly in favour of what is clearly filler material per scene, which, at the time, even tests the patience a little. Of course, one could argue that this is a storytelling factor in itself, as presented by the trapped, enclosed psyche of the central character, however I feel this could be granting a tad too much lenience to what is most likely a fairly lazy script. Indeed, a depressing reliance on slightly mistimed jump-scares would indicate this is the case — and these are even more of a shame when considering that some strong imagery closes the first story. Trickle in some campiness — which, in fairness, is well done — and any potential for creepiness is almost entirely cancelled out.
Quite the negative recall… However, forget its self-delusional promo and take Ghost Stories at face value, and there is fun to be had. And, there is no denying that there is intelligent writing on show here; a pleasing wraparound ties up proceedings nicely, and the characterisation is believable. Perhaps back to the drawing board with the concept, and we could really have something special, as opposed to what feels something of a wasted opportunity.
Ghost Stories is at the Arts Theatre until 24 May