DVD region 2. Network.
horror anthologies were surprisingly popular in the 1970s and
into the 1980s, by the Nineties, they had fallen out of favour
with the hipsters and cocaine cowboys who were taking over British
television. So Yorkshire TV’s Chiller was
something of an oddity in 1995 – a straight-faced, un-ironic
series of chilling tales. Generally dismissed at the time, it
The five part series of 50 minute stories was co-produced (and
sometimes directed) by Lawrence Gordon Clark, who had overseen
the BBC’s famed Ghost Story for Christmas
series of annual shockers based (mostly) on the works of M.R.
James; but unlike those stories, this series is strictly contemporary
Series opener Prophecy was adapted by Steven
Gallagher from a story by Peter James (the ubiquitous author found
in remainder shops up and down the country), and is an Omen
/ Final Destination style tale where a séance
leads to the deaths – or at least crippling – of all
involved through a series of ‘accidents’. Sophie Ward
stars as the woman at the centre of events and has a gratuitous
nude scene, while Nigel Havers is her hapless boyfriend and father
of a strange child who seems overly interested in bizarre deaths.
It’s a solid enough start – not overly original perhaps,
but well put together with some effective shocks.
Things get decidedly creepier with Toby, where
couple Serena Gordon and Martin Clunes lose their unborn child
as a result of a car crash. Gordon seemingly becomes pregnant
again, but there is no baby inside her, although her phantom pregnancy
runs all the way through to ‘birth’ – a queasily
unpleasant moment. Returning home, she discovers that there is
a phantom child in their house – an invisible, screaming
baby that needs to be breast-fed in a genuinely unsettling moment.
With whale song used as an effectively spooky soundtrack (I might
have to steal that idea…) and a genuinely eerie atmosphere,
this is dark stuff.
The Mirror Man is the weakest entry in the series
– John Simms stars as a mentally unbalanced man who becomes
obsessed with a social worker (Phyllis Logan), who is herself
having ‘issues’. The twist can be seen coming from
the start, and there seems to be a chunk of plot missing, making
this a rather forgettable instalment.
The final two episodes come from the pen of Anthony Horowitz.
The Man Who Didn’t Believe in Ghosts has
Peter Egan as a writer who specialises in debunking stories of
the supernatural. After suffering a stroke, his family move to
a large house in Yorkshire, only to be confronted with unexplained
happenings that the increasingly unpleasant author refuses to
accept. But is he right? The story has pleasing twists and turns,
a guest appearance from newsreader Angela Rippon and, to the amusement
of Brit Horror fans, a character called Peter Walker.
The final story, Number Six, is closer to a dark
police whodunit than a horror tale – though there are plenty
of supernatural elements, including a whole gaggle of creepy kids.
Kevin McNally is the police officer searching for the child killer
who strikes every full moon in a small Yorkshire village. When
it’s revealed that the school was built on former Druid
sacrificial ground, you know things are only going to get worse,
especially as McNally’s son is being visited by dead children.
The story leaves a few loose strands, but is well paced and effectively
bleak. Rising Damp star Don Warrington appears
as a psychologist who helps piece the mystery together.
Topped with a title sequence that feels like an outtake from Aphex
Twin’s Come to Daddy, Chiller
is a lot better than I expected it to be, avoiding the flat look
of much British TV (all the stories are shot on film) or the smugness
of later series like 2003 BBC series Spine Chillers
or Channel 5’s Urban Gothic. If you have
a taste for low key, scary stories, this will be just up your
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