Helloween Day Five: Ghostwatch

October 5, 2016 0

Bizarro author Jeff Burk mentioned Ghostwatch in a blog post he wrote about horror movies you probably haven’t seen. The post has a bunch of interesting choices and is worth reading. I chose Ghostwatch, a 1992 British made-for-TV faux-documentary (PG or PG-13), and watched it for free on YouTube (update: it might not be available anymore).

The plot: the BBC investigates a claimed haunting. To heighten the atmosphere, they do the investigation on Halloween night, splitting time between their studios and a housing project. The show starts slowly. Host Michael Parkinson (played by himself) and parapsychologist Dr. Lin Pascoe (played by an actress) take phone calls from people who claim to see a shadowy figure in early footage of the girls’ bedroom. Craig Charles of Red Dwarf fame plays himself, interviewing people outside the house. Reporter Sarah Greene (playing herself) enters the house to talk to the mother and her daughters.

Pamela Early and her two daughters claim they’ve been tormented by poltergeist activity for months. The name of the ghost in question is Pipes, who got his name because that’s what the mother said when her daughters asked what was making the awful sounds. Starting with thumps and bumps, the ghostly activity quickly escalates to spooky voices and physical phenomena, with unexplained scratches appearing on the older daughter’s face.

More people call in, claiming the figure in the bedroom is an old man or woman wearing a black dress. The mother tells a spooky story about getting stuck in the glory hole, the little room beneath the staircase. I’m not sure if Ghostwatch’s writers knew what a glory hole is, but from what we learn about Pipes later on I’d say they did. The plot chugs along the way you’d expect, before veering off course.

Loosely based on the Enfield hauntings, Ghostwatch is utter fiction but apparently a number of viewers didn’t know that when it aired. The BBC reporters play themselves, but everyone else is an actor. Despite being made-for-TV, Ghostwatch is a scary movie. We only catch glimpses of the really disturbing stuff– the half-seen pictures Pipes drew in the older daughter’s school notebooks, the ghost’s guttural voice and of course Pipes himself. We never see the elusive spirit clearly, but he’s around. You can do a Google search to find out where he appears.

Recommended!

Helloween Day Four: Final Prayer

October 4, 2016 0

 

A late addition to my list, Final Prayer also goes by the title of The Borderlands. This movie is another recommendation of British horror writer Adam Nevill. The article in question is here, and well worth reading. Final Prayer is a British found-footage movie, available to rent on Amazon Prime for $3.99 (cheap!).

The plot: a priest records a paranormal experience in his church during a baptism (which turns out to be important). The Vatican’s spook squad gets called in, so I guess the priest isn’t Anglican. The boys from Rome send in an investigative team to debunk the video. They’re the anti-miracle squad, I guess.

The team consists of Deacon, a Scottish priest; Gray, the tech guy; and Father Amidon, who hates Deacon. The priests are skeptics, which makes sense considering that 99% of the cases they investigate are utter bullshit. Unfortunately, this case is the other 1%.

The town is in the middle of nowhere, a place where the local kids light sheep on fire for fun. The investigators must wear head cameras for the duration of the investigation to establish a timeline. The priests think their fellow priest is making the whole thing up; Gray, who isn’t religious, believes him.

Gray puts video cameras and microphones all over the church. Most of the phenomena he records is auditory, creaks and groans and bumps and crying children. We learn that the church is built over a pagan worship site, where the locals worshipped things that came to Britain before Christ.

Is Final Prayer scary? I got through it without too much of a problem, although I did let out a few shrieks that startled my cat. There are jump scares. The acting is good. We come to know and like Deacon and Gray, although neither is all that likable at the movie’s start.

I got confused a little at Final Prayer’s climax, because two of the characters wear glasses and I got them mixed up. Apparently, the ending is controversial. I’m not sure how I feel about it, myself. I guess I’d need to see the movie again.

Final Prayer is worth a view, especially if you like found-footage. The best line of the movie comes during a pub conversation between Gray and Deacon, where Gray says (paraphrasing) – ‘the pagans worshipped things that were there. You worship something that’s not there. If your god and their god fought, I know who I’d put my money on.’

Not as scary as Across the River, but still good. Recommended!

Helloween Day Two: Across the River

October 2, 2016 0

Adam Nevill, one of my favorite horror writers, recommended Across the River. The link to the article is here. The movie’s in Italian with English subtitles, but that doesn’t matter because there’s almost no dialogue. I watched it for free on Amazon Prime.

The plot: Marco catches, tags and then releases animals back into the wild. I don’t know why he does this because I’m not an ethologist myself, but driving around in an RV, trapping beasties and mounting cameras on their backs so he can watch videotape of them skulking around in the dark seems pretty cool.

Marco sees something odd on video that makes him follow one of his ‘charges.’ He drives his RV across the river, which is dangerously high because of the flooding, and ends up in a deserted village in the middle of the woods. Except the village isn’t really deserted. There are the animals…it must be the animals that scream in the night. Then he sees a thing that’s not an animal, but by then it’s too late. The river has risen.

He’s trapped. But he’s not alone…

Set in Italy, Across the River features beautiful scenery and an atmospheric soundtrack. The abandoned village is creepy as hell, and the director knows how to milk the dread from a scene. The first half is better than the second. I didn’t find Marco’s actions unrealistic; he makes a mistake, but he’s just a guy doing his job, which makes what he goes through that much worse.

There’s a lot to like about Across The River. Depending on your temperament, this will either be unbearably boring or a brown underwear movie. The Blair Witch Project comes to mind, although this isn’t a found footage movie. The first part of the movie also reminded me of “The Ritual,” the Adam Nevill novel.

Did Across The River scare me? Yes. It made me abandon my ‘no remote’ resolution. If you like your horror movies atmospheric and scary, check this one out; if you prefer lots of action and gore, skip it.

 

We’re at Worldcon!

August 15, 2016 0

Chris, Cath and George will be at MidAmeriCon II this week! Will you? Find us on Twitter if you’re around and want to say hi. We’re looking forward to connecting with friends and former guests! (And hey, if you want a bit part in our upcoming radio drama, that may be arranged. Mwahaha…)

In other news, we’ve added a couple of short blooper files to our Extras page. Hard to believe, but we do occasionally biff the show in comical fashion.

What else are we up to? Glad you asked. Dr. Cath will share her expertise on two panels at Worldcon this week. Chris just wrapped up DraculaFest with a summary mega-post. Chia’s spending the summer in Florida and has the pics to prove it (with a brief stint back in Boston to cover Forbidden Research). And George is held hostage by a feline overlord. Don’t send help.

Thanks for listening! New show coming soon.

Short fiction from Cath and Chia

February 2, 2016 0

Cath’s story, Crystal Vision, has been added to the Fiction section of the site. It joins Chia’s story, A Golden Treasure, which she read on our Holidays 2015 show. Both stories now have audio narration by the author available from the story page; whether that narration is unreliable, I’ll leave up to you. More fiction releases are planned, so check back in the coming weeks.

UPDATE: Our podcast hosting service appears to be glitching on us, and the posted narration files keep vanishing off the server. We are in the process of determining wtf. In the meantime, enjoy the text versions!

UP-UPDATE: Everything appears to be working. Enjoy!

Unreliable Mail: How do I become a writer and a podcaster?

December 31, 2015 0

Dear Unreliable Narrators:

For my 2016 New Year’s resolution, I’ve decided I want to grow up to be a writer and a podcaster, just like all of you are. What are my first steps?

***

I’m glad you asked that, Unreliable Listener! This is Cath, and the other Narrators can respond in their own unique way, but I have a couple of ideas on the subject.

The first thing you have to do, aspiring writer, is to write. You have to write a lot. And you have to write a lot of crap. Words do not come out of your pen fully formed like Athena in her armor. Even when you’ve written a long time, the first words you birth will be scabrous and malformed. It is essential at this point that you write some more. All writers will tell you that first drafts are formative. They do things to your self-conscious. They deviate from outlines. They are as wiggly as worms on a fishing hook. But keep writing and don’t be critical of yourself until the right time, which is when you feel a first draft has given you as much as it can. For some people that point is at the end. For others, it’s a constant scouring of the last section they wrote before they move on to the next one. Most people are somewhere in between.

Find a way to separate the creator from the editor. Don’t do both. I’ve pretended that I can create and edit at the same time, but I was just living a lie.  If you let the editor look at your work too soon, you might not be able to stomach your scabrous words, and quit, or you might lock yourself into a structure which keeps your story from bearing fruition. However, if you don’t let the editor in at all, your words will remain nasty.

My process varies from book to book, but usually I write a first draft, which usually collapses to almost outline form by the end, and then I laboriously go back in and unpack a lot of the stuff I wrote before. I also think through changes and re-outline. I also talk to my friends a lot about what I’m doing (a good writing group is another post) and bounce ideas off my husband. Sometimes an inspirational light bulb will appear above my head when my subconscious makes me realize something I’ve been doing all along.  Eventually the mass of words comes to resemble a short story or a novel, or whatever it is I’m groping towards.

The point is to write, write often, write with freedom, expect little from those first drafts, and turn a critical eye on the beastie when the time is right, but not before. As you come to know yourself and your writing, you’ll come to know when the time is right.

Now, I’m sorry, aspiring writer, all of this does not guarantee that anyone else will care about your magnum opus, or that you will get an agent, or riches.  But it does mean that you will engage in an art form and produce the stories you want to produce, hopefully your level of skill improving as you write and write and write and write and, well, you get the idea.  There’s a whole ‘nother part of this, the business end, but again, that’s another post.

As for being a podcaster, well, that one’s a bit easier. You get some friends and a tape recorder, you sit around and talk and put it on line. We usually line up topics in advance and appoint a moderator, but you don’t have to.  If you’re very lucky, one of your friends will make a swell theme song and another will do liner notes and all you’ll have to do is contact the occasional person and write a snarky post or two on the blog. At least that’s how I did.

Hey, let us know how you’re doing out there, Unreliable Listener! On the eve of 2017, you should write back and let me know how it’s going with that first draft. Or you could talk about it on your podcast.

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