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Classy British 'Ghost Stories' to be savored

Classy British 'Ghost Stories' to be savored
Martin Freeman in the movie "Ghost Stories." (IFC Midnight)

A handsome throwback to the golden age of British horror anthologies, the supernatural thriller "Ghost Stories" transforms a hit play into something surprisingly cinematic. Like the films it pays homage to, "Ghost Stories" is more classy than chilling; but each of its dark, twisty tales is smartly staged.

"League of Gentlemen" co-founder Jeremy Dyson wrote and directed both the play and the film with Andy Nyman. The latter also stars, playing Professor Phillip Goodman, a professional skeptic surprised to learn that one of his heroes, Charles Cameron — another debunker of the paranormal — is now a believer. Goodman revisits three of Cameron's cases to find out why.

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Like "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors" and its many 1960s and '70s copycats, "Ghost Stories" uses its framing device as a way to string together a matched set of short shockers. The professor meets a nightwatchman (Paul Whitehouse), a teenager (Alex Lawther) and a high-powered businessman (Martin Freeman) who have each had their lives changed by encounters with evil spirits. Then in a final jolt, the investigator gets his own haunt.

The many "Ghost Stories" mysteries and revelations elicit more of a "huh" than an "eek!" But Nyman and Dyson show off an impressive range of horror techniques, from quietly moody to thrillingly stylish, while working with a top-shelf cast. This movie's so sophisticated, it should only be watched in a fine leather chair, by a crackling fire, on a stormy night.

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'Ghost Stories'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Playing: VOD, April 20; opens April 27, Landmark Nuart, West L.A.

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