Review of Hammer Chillers Season 1: Sticks and Stone, The Devil in Darkness & Don’t Go There
Mr Jim Moon already introduced us to the legendary Hammer studios Chillers series. If you want to learn more about the background and the first three episode of Series 1 read his review here.
In order to avoid redundancy I will concentrate on the final three episodes, namely Sticks and Stones, The Devil in Darkness and Don’t Go There.
Episode 4 – Sticks and Stones
By Robin Ince; Performed by a full cast:
Released: ? June 2013
Neil Stanley is a nice man. He has a nice house, a nice wife, a nice life. But Neil has a secret. He’s an internet troll, spending every spare moment posting hate-filled messages online.
When he begins trolling talent-show contestant Sam Pinker, his threats begin to come true. Is Neil acting upon his online taunts? Or is something else to blame?
Oh man it does make me feel a bit like a troll myself starting off with a negative review. In short, I was a bit disappointed. Sticks and Stones failed to draw me in, and get me interested in the “what’s next?”
Is it because the connection that author Robin Ince attempt to draw similarities between medieval witch trials and modern day talent show contestants is not entirely convincing and rather forced? Or is it because he tries to pack too much into half hour or so of audio drama time? This drama could have done with a longer treatment to give it more room to build up the characters and the plot.
This is not meant to shake a stick at the production per se or the actors. In all fairness, it’s not like Sticks and Stones is really bad, it just left me with an unsatisfied feeling of “meh”.
Episode 4 – The Devil in Darkness
By Christopher Fowler; Performed by a full cast:
Released: July 5, 2013
Mia never takes the eerie old lift in the St Petersburg International Archive. But one night she leaves late and is forced to break her rule. She’s travelling down with the only other passenger when the lift jams between floors.
Andrei is a Russian electrician, and tries to free them, but he can’t get the doors open. As the days pass their bond grows stronger, while they grow weaker.
But what are those strange noises? Are supernatural forces trapping them in the lift? Or is the truth even more terrifying?
The fifth episode The Devil in Darkness starts of with a well-established scenario: the Locked Room, or, in this case the stuck elevator. It doesn’t help that it’s the weekend and the building is empty. Or is it? The old walls hold bad memories from the days when the basement housed the torture chambers of the Tscheka the Bolshevik secret police from the early days after the revolution.
Writer Christopher Fowler manages to avoid pretty much everything that was wrong with Sticks and Stones. The cast is reduced to two characters and the action boiled down to two people slipping into darkness and despair as the days run by. The acting is fine and the sound design is used to good effect. In the end the story surprises with a twist that at least had me thinking: Of course, but why didn’t I see this? I grant this to the believable and good performance of the actors Dylan Charles and Lauren Kellegher and the way the listener is subtly set up to think in the wrong direction.
Episode 6 – Don’t Go There
By Stephen Volk; Performed by a full cast:
Released: July 15, 2013
John and Laura Daulby’s son is lying in a coma in hospital, on a Greek holiday island. But John refuses to believe his son is just another victim of bad drugs.
He enters the hedonistic world of 18-30 clubbers to get to the truth, and meets the enigmatic and beautiful Stheno.
Finding himself increasingly attracted to her – in the same way his son was – he realises that she may just be a Greek myth come to life…
At 44 minutes this is the longest of the Hammer Chillers so far and this gives writer Stephen Volk ample time to develop the story. Volk whose love for the paranormal and horror genres has been widely demonstrated in his TV and film work (Gothic, Ghostwatch, Afterlife) visits ancient Greek myths.
The atmosphere of a small Greek island that is virtually deserted by day and a clubber’s paradise by night is transported quite effectively. Having said that though, at first I found the bigotry of John Daulby applied a little too thickly but it sets the stage nicely for the character’s gradual acceptance that there might be more to his son’s condition than just a bad trip. As with most of the other Hammer shows the motifs (soul-sucking femme-fatale seductress) is not new but well transported into the modern day. After listening you’re tempted to warn your kids to be careful whom they snog at techno parties in countries with a long mythological tradition.
This episode’s cast is great and benefits from Cyprus-born Daphne Alexander’s fluency in Greek. Few things ruin it for me as much as badly faked accents.
Overall, I would recommend the second half of Hammer’s first season of Chiller audio dramas. The episodes are short and self-contained so they are easily accessible and don not require you having to keep up-to-date with a massive multi-episode storyline ends with a cliffhanger every season. That also means that the occasional “miss” might stick out more but one in six isn’t a bad ratio so far.
All episodes can be downloaded individually or purchased for a modest subscription fee right from Hammer Chillers online. There is also digipack CD version for those who still like to have a hard copy.
Posted by Carsten Schmitt
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