Sunday, 13 May 2012

Ghostwatch (1992)

On October the 31st (Halloween) 1992 a television show was screened that caused more controversy than anything else ever shown on British Television before and since. For a whole week the BBC had plugged a special show in which veteran TV presenters would investigate the paranormal. What however the BBC failed to do was inform the viewing public that it was not real.

As Ghostwatch begins you join Michael Parkinson in a studio with Dr Lin Pascoe, the two of them discuss the paranormal briefly before Michael introduces the audience to the rest of the crew. In the studio Mike Smith answers the phones, when people call in to tell their supernatural stories. On location Sarah Greene and Craig Charles are based in a house that is haunted by a rather mischievous entity that the family have called "pipes".
After a short period of time, the crew on location, start to get slight signs of supernatural activity, while in the studio frantic calls are coming in to say that the viewers have seen a sinister figure in the girl's bedroom. As the night progress's the crew in the house are attacked, one of the daughters become possessed and even Michael Parkinson has a rather alarming reaction.

Sat in my living room back in 1992 I was fully aware that what I was watching was drama, but even then I could not escape the odd tingling feeling of wondering what sinister act was round the corner. And in honesty for the BBC it was very sinister indeed. Although rather poorly acted in places, it's a real ripping 90 minutes of must see entertainment.

It's incredibly well thought out, scenes are replayed to us the viewing audience and on the first viewing something is visible, but on the second showing it's gone. And through this trick the biggest mind game was played with the audience, to many it was inconceivable that it could be two separate pieces of footage.

In a time when television was becoming a very politically correct place, the BBC seemed to have gone out of their way to tip this balance. This was just the impact writer Stephen Volk was looking for, although his work was terribly well written; more often than not budget limitations make his work incredibly difficult to make.

The effect of Ghostwatch was catastrophic, by the Monday after screening an internal order was placed on Ghostwatch, preventing it from ever being screened again by the BBC. Because apparently an estimated 50% of the audience had no clue this was a drama. As the story unfolded elderly viewers had heart attacks and other ailments, pregnant women went into shock and gave birth prematurely. The BBC had more phone calls and letters of complaint than they ever had about anything else.

This is a very difficult programme to review; I can't share my total thoughts on this as I would give away massive chunks of the story. But I do feel that this incredible piece of work should be made familiar with the audience again. And I hope that this mention may persuade you the reader to buy this DVD and keep its legacy of terror alive. All I can say in reference to this is that, despite the acting it's a phenomenal piece of work and will go down in my book as one of the top five British Television shows ever made. This work of art definitely put the scare back into Halloween.

You can buy Ghostwatch on DVD now, click the links below to purchase from Amazon.

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