Hollywood is in the middle of a horror moment. Alongside CGI-filled fireworks-shows-masquerading-as-movies and massive franchise installments, horror films have dominated release schedules for the past three years. This is largely because of the risk-taking of Blumhouse and the insatiability of fans of the genre. Horror films are guaranteed to garner viewers, so they are safe films to produce.

Unfortunately, just as the era of “Peak TV” has stretched the creative capacities of the television industry too far—there simply are not enough good writers, set designers, actors, and so on to populate all of the shows in production, thereby diminishing the quality of new shows—so has the Hollywood greenlighting of such a preponderance of horror films led to a watering down of the end products, unless the stars align and something as magical as Get Out happens.

Ghost Stories is an excellent example of this broader phenomenon. It is an average film and a worthy addition to the massive roster of new horror releases. But it is still disappointing, because it could have been much more.

The first act is brilliant, foreboding and displays a high degree of craft. In particular, the cinematography establishes an overwhelming sensation of dread through contrasting bright foreground colors against the dreary slate gray of an English sky so heavy with those patented North Atlantic clouds that it droops drearily over most exterior scenes. The story structure is fun—myth-busting Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman) investigates three cases of unsolved supernatural occurrences in order to prove that material reality is the sole reality. Within this tripartite tale are a few jump scares, some spooky sets and enough intrigue to keep the plot moving forward.

But Ghost Stories eventually falls apart. Writer-director pair Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman have too many ideas that they try too hard to wedge into a plot that does not need them. The patented horror film twist hangs over the entire third act like the sword of Damocles; the viewer knows it is coming but Dyson and Nyman want to disguise it as much as possible, so that the twist is really a series of climactic moments building sloppily upon another. When the plot does finally coalesce around the “real” twist, it mostly feels pointless. It certainly is not necessary to the central storyline of Ghost Stories and whether it adds a level of dynamism or fun to the film is questionable.

All that Ghost Stories really needs is some plot tinkering to remove Dyson and Nyman’s obsessive setting up of the twist, more stringent editing to maintain and build upon the momentum coming from the first two “stories” that Professor Goodman investigates and a greater fidelity to the early tone established by the set design and cinematography. But with producers tripping over each other to find horror films to release, there is too much haste in finishing films and too little patience, guidance and oversight. A flawed film like Ghost Stories slips through with all its imperfections when it could have been sharpened and significantly improved with just a little effort. There is the foundation of an outstanding horror film here, but the viewer has to work too hard at times to really see it.

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