It’s always hard to find a horror flick these days that’s actually genuinely scary, not to mention fun as well. You have your endless found footage stuff, a consistent parade of ghost/exorcism fare, various creature features, and in the columns of hit or miss, unfortunately the latter weighs heavier. But once in a while there’s that terrifying ruckus of a haunted house flick that comes along and knows how to assault you on all sides with the creep factor, the laugh cannon and be a smart, well told and unexpected tale too. Ghost Stories is just that, a gleeful throwback to the BBC anthology horror of the 80’s that pulls the rug right out from you and frightens in a big way.
Set up in three distinct segments plus a kicker of a final fourth act, it follows a paranormal debunker (Andy Nyman) as he revisits three decades old spooky cases that have never been solved and haunt the afflicted to this day. The first and scariest sees a night watchman (Paul Whitehouse) on shift at an abandoned asylum who’s plagued by a restless spirit. In the second, a young boy (Alex Lawther) is harassed by a devilish creature as he drives through a forest in a stolen car. Lastly, father to be Martin Freeman is terrorized by a poltergeist in his home. These stories work great on their own but they really serve as a tapestry of clues to what’s really going on, and later down the line there’s some chilling revelations that are far more disturbing than any ghost going bump in the night. This is like the best, strongest points of Twilight Zone, Tales From The Crypt and Goosebumps done right with just a flourish of Black Mirror on the side. Freeman gives the best work, becoming cheerfully psychotic later and injecting delirious amounts of extremely dark humour into every mirthful grimace and off the wall mannerism. This is what horror should be.
Netflix’s new original show The End Of The Fucking World is impossible to really describe until you go binge it for yourself, which isn’t a tough task, considering it’s only eighth episodes, each twenty minutes or so in length. It’s a dark comedy, a road movie, a love story, a pseudo coming of age tale and everything in between, seen through a sardonic yet heartfelt lens, wicked sharp acting that’ll have you laughing in stitches when it’s not hitting you in the feels, and the beautifully blunt script to back it up. James (Alex Lawther) is a stoic seventeen year old who is fairly certain that he’s a psychopath. He’s killed all manner of household pets and local wildlife, but plans to graduate to something bigger very soon. Alyssa (Jessica Barden) is a mouthy little thing, also seventeen, with a monumental attitude problem and enough social dysfunction to fill an auditorium.They’re an odd pair, and hit the road together after James literally decks his father in he face and steals his car. This isn’t your average love story, road flick or black comedy though, which is a good thing. Mad at their families and willing to get prickly with anyone who crosses their path, these two are an odd suited pair and an electrifying couple of protagonists to spend four hours with. I could outline more of the plot but then I’d be shedding unneeded light on a beautifully unpredictable, often scary, achingly sweet and altogether unique turn of events that land with an arc that has to be seen to be believed. Out across rural England their joyride leads them, and into shenanigans ranging from puzzling to endearing to downright disturbing (there’s both a serial killer and a molester involved, but not in ways you might expect). Lawthon and Barden are two uncanny finds, bringing teenage awkwardness, earned warmth and hilarious delivery to every facet of their work. If this is a tick on the barometer for the steady uphill direction that Netflix is heading in with their originals, keep at it. Oh and please please please give us another season of this, because I’m already in withdrawal.