Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Nerdversity Reviews: Ghostwatch

Ghostwatch was first broadcast on Halloween 1992 on BBC1. It was a mockumentary, directed by Lesley Manning and written by Stephen Volk. It was intially broadcast as part of the BBC's Screen One series of Dramas. It was originally filmed weeks in advance, but gave the impression of a live investigation into a haunting of a house. During it's initial broadcast in 1992, the BBC recieved over 30,000 complaints from upset parents in the first hour of the show alone and was never repeated on BBC TV until recently, where it was also put on DVD for the first time.

The 90-minute film was a horror story shot in a documentary style and appeared as part of BBC Drama's Screen One series. It involved BBC reporters performing a live, on-air investigation of a house in NortholtGreater London, at which poltergeist activity was believed to be taking place. Through revealing footage and interviews with neighbours and the family living there, they discover the existence of a malevolent ghost nicknamed Pipes (the children in the house had asked their mother about noises heard, and she said it was the pipes, hence the name). As the programme proceeds, viewers learn that Pipes is the spirit of a psychologically disturbed man called Raymond Tunstall, himself believed to have been troubled by the spirit of Mother Seddons – a "baby farmer" turned child killer from the 19th century (probably inspired by Amelia Dyer). In the course of the programme Pipes makes various manifestations which become more bold and terrifying, until, at the end, the frightened reporters realise that the programme itself has been acting as a sort of "national séance" through which Pipes was gaining horrific power. Finally, the spirit unleashes its power to the fullest extent, dragging host Sarah Greene out of sight behind a door and then escaping to express poltergeist activity throughout the country. He takes control of the BBC studios and transmitter network, using the Ghostwatch studio as a focal point and possessing Michael Parkinson in the process.

Despite appearing in the Radio Times in the slot of a drama series and even had a cast and crew credits listing, the special drew a lot of attention for it's scare factor which made children too afraid to sleep and close to the knuckle events pre-watershed. It was later revealed that some people even got PTSD from how scary it was. However, it has since been highly praised, even 25 years later by critics and horror fans alike for what it did.