Ghost Stories is a British horror anthology released in 2017. The plot: psychic debunker Philip Goodman uses his TV show to expose hucksters and frauds. Interestingly, he is portrayed as a spoilsport with an enormous ego. I’ve seen horror movies featuring skeptics before, but this is the first one I’ve seen that is so openly hostile to its main character. Anyway: Goodman gets a message from his mentor, Professor Cameron, who now lives in a spooky trailer by an abandoned amusement park. The good doctor gives Goodman three cases of the paranormal he’s never been able to solve, and there’s your frame story.
The first case features a security guard keeping watch over an abandoned women’s prison/asylum. Why anyone would hire a security guard to do such a thing, I have no idea. The lights keep going out as our hero wanders around in the dark. This asylum features lots of women’s mannequins, because reasons.
The second story involves a younger guy who hits something in the woods while he’s talking on his cell phone. In an act of cosmic justice, his car stalls in those selfsame woods and the goat thing he hit comes by to pay a visit. The third story involves a rich guy whose older wife gets pregnant. She goes into the hospital while he stays in his enormous home. From what we see of his personality he’s doing his wife a favor by staying away. Is it poltergeists that invade the baby’s room or something else?
Ghost Stories contains a few decent jump scares and shrieking ghouls. They made me jump anyway, but that’s pretty easy to do. The first story is good, but the second and third are skimpy. That’s because the frame story becomes vital to the plot as the movie progresses. Watch Ghost Stories closely, as certain characters and scenes repeat. Unfortunately, there’s no way for the viewer to guess what’s happening.
After awhile things get really, really surreal and I didn’t know what was going on, never a good sign in a horror movie. Please note that some of the characters make anti-Semitic statements, and since this movie dislikes its protagonist I wasn’t sure how to take them. Ghost Stories reminded me of Dead of Night, a wonderful 1940’s horror anthology which features a psychic battle between a ventriloquist and his dummy. Ghost Stories isn’t as good as Dead of Night, and for reasons I won’t go into (because spoilers) I also found this movie to be depressing. A decently made jumper that gets incoherent towards the end.
If you enjoy horror movies that rely on atmosphere and the slow buildup of suspense, you will like I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House. If you are the type who likes action-oriented horror, you will be bored to tears. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is an effective ghost story, although the writing is sketchy in parts. Translation: if you think too much about this movie it falls apart.
Lily is a young hospice nurse who is taking care of Iris Blum, a horror novelist. Ms. Blum, who isn’t quite right in her head and insists on calling Lily Polly, lives in a spooky old house in the middle of nowhere. The house is dark and creaky, making all the sounds an old house makes. There’s a tiny little television and a corded phone and black mold on the walls – by the way, did you know that if black mold is toxic it can cause hallucinations?
The house also contains Polly, the subject of Ms. Blum’s most famous potboiler, The Lady in the Walls. It’s not clear if Polly is real or a figment of Ms. Blum’s imagination, but pretty soon Lily starts seeing her also. Polly walks forward, with her back turned towards you. I have no idea what that means, but it’s a spooky image.
Indeed, the atmosphere of I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is very spooky. At the start of this movie I thought the chair nailed to the wall in the kitchen was floating in mid-air and couldn’t figure out why Lily didn’t react to it. There is a lot of imagery like that here, and much of the spoken dialogue is almost poetic. I believe Lily is sometimes quoting from Ms. Blum’s books, but am not sure.
I thought I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House was a sad movie. Lily is a timid woman, living in a secluded house with only a woman with dementia for company. She might as well be alone. We learn that Lily almost married, but her partner called it off. So now she sits alone in the house, slowly rotting.
Shutter is a Thai horror movie directly inspired by the J-horror craze of the early aughts. The plot: Tun and Jane are a young couple driving home to Bangkok after partying with Tun’s skeevy college buddies. They’re both drunk, but Jane is the one driving when they hit a young woman. Jane wants to stop and check to see if the woman is all right but Tun yells at her to keep driving.
Afterwards, Jane feels awful and can’t sleep. Tun, who has the uncanny ability to put other people’s misfortunes behind him, has different problems. A professional photographer, he starts seeing weird shit in his photos. Then he has visions, all involving a malevolent dead woman. Jane sees things, too, but – unlike Tun – nobody seems to be stalking her, which is strange since she was the driver. It’s almost like someone is trying to tell her something – as ghosts do. Jane finds a photograph of Tun with a woman named Natre, whom Tun admits he knows.
Shutter takes a hard left turn when Tun and Jane discover that there were no reported accidents the night of their hit-and-run. Pretty soon it becomes obvious that the woman Jane hit was Natre and that she wasn’t – uh, alive. Tun’s visions grow worse as his college buddies start practicing high-diving off buildings. What’s up? Watch the movie to find out!
Shutter exists because of evil-girl ghost movies like The Ring. That said, Natre isn’t an evil spirit; there are evil people in this movie, but she isn’t one of them. Shutter is well-written and visually striking, with foreshadowing that works, a ton of good jump scares and two twists at the end. The first twist isn’t a surprise if you’ve been paying attention, but for me it was hard to watch. The second twist surprised me, in a good way.
My only quibbles with Shutter are that the subtitles aren’t great and Jane is more sympathetic than Tun, the main character. That said, one of the real pleasures of this movie is watching Natre drive Tun crazy. A few of his visions resemble bad acid trips.