Review of Hammer Chillers – Series 1: The Box, The Fixation, and Spanish Ladies

SFFaudio Review

Hammer Chillers: Series One

Hammer Chillers – Series 1:SFFaudio Essential

Episode 1 – The Box
By Stephen Gallagher; Performed by a full cast
Released: June 7, 2013
The culmination of the Wainfleet Maritime College sea rescue and safety course is a session in The Box, an underwater helicopter escape simulator. The candidates are ex-navy or air force, and The Box should be an easy exercise for such experienced men. So why are the drop-outs gradually increasing in number? Men are seeing things when they’re submerged, and won’t talk about them when they come out… What is the secret of The Box?

Episode 2 – The Fixation
By Mark Morris; Performed by a full cast
Released: June 14, 2013
When Ian Hibbert witnesses a hoodie dumping a bin of rubbish outside his house, he decides enough is enough. He convenes a group of Darwell residents and sets out to clean up the estate, which has been falling to rack and ruin the past few years. But the Clean Up Darwell group are abused; his daughter is attacked; and finally, one of the committee members disappears. Ian discovers to his cost that someone – or something – doesn’t want him to clean up Darwell. But why?

Episode 3 – Spanish Ladies
By Paul Magrs; Performed by a full cast
Released: June 21, 2013
Phil doesn’t need a girlfriend, his overbearing Mummy tells him. His Mummy will look after him forever. She steams open his post, reads his diary and checks under his bed for mucky magazines. Suspecting that her shy, middle-aged son is seeing a lady, she employs her friend Renee from Friday night bingo to spy on him. But when Mummy discovers that it’s Renee herself who is carrying on with her darling boy, she exacts a terrible revenge…

In the annals of cinema, Hammer Film Productions are a legend, most famous for producing a string of classic horror movies from the mid ’50s until the late ’70s. They brought iconic characters like Professor Quatermass, Dracula, Baron Frankenstein and the Mummy to the screen and made Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee stars.

Hammer ceased film production in 1976 and after a couple of well remembered anthology TV series in the early ’80s – Hammer House of Horror (1980) and Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (1984), the studio closed its doors. But much like their famous horror creations, they didn’t stay dead. Hammer came back from the grave in the 21st century with a string of new movies – Let Me In (2010), The Resident (2011), Wakewood (2011) and the box office smash The Woman In Black (2012).

However the reborn Hammer hasn’t confined itself to making fine movies – in 2011 they launched a publishing arm, releasing new books by big names such as Jeanette Winterson and Tim Lebbon, and a series of novels that re-imagine their classic movies. Furthermore in January this year Hammer took to the stage with a new play adapting Henry James’ classic ghost story The Turn Of The Screw opening in the famous Almeida Theatre in London.

And now the legendary house of horrors is moving into the world of audio drama with the launch of Hammer Chillers, a series of 30 minute plays which are to be released as weekly downloads from the 7th June, with a complete series CD coming on July 26th. Much like their book imprint, Hammer have gathered together a fine roster for this foray into sonic terror, with established genre writers penning the scripts and plenty of familiar names from British TV and film in the casts.

First out of the gate is The Box (released 7th June) starring Con O’Neill, Alex Lowe and Zoe Lister. The titular device resides at the Wainfleet Maritime College and is used in training courses to simulate an underwater helicopter escape. However this routine exercise is regularly being failed by experienced personnel, leading course instructor Sean (Con O’Neil) to suspect that all is not right within the Box.

Scripted by accomplished novelist and screen writer Stephen Gallagher, The Box presents us with an eerie little mystery that pays off with a rather neat twist-in-the-tail. With a strong cast, excellent production values, and a simple but strong storyline, this is a wonderfully chilling opener for the series. It sets the bar high from the outset and rightly so to build audience loyalty with the rest of the series.

However as good as The Box is, it is comparative gentle compared to the following episodes. The second episode is The Fixation, written by Mark Morris, an author who has been turning out good solid horror novels that are highly entertaining for a good few years now. And The Fixation is quintessential terror Morris-style, taking us to a small English town where something isn’t quite right. Ian Hibbert is a somewhat fussy fellow who becomes increasingly irritated by the litter and trash that is cluttering his community, and vows to clean up his local area. However there is a more sinister reason for the ever growing piles of rubbish accumulating in Darnell than the general decline of society that Hibbert is so worried about.

Like much of Morris’s work, The Fixation reworks classic horror tropes into a contemporary English setting, creating intriguing and imaginative tales that reflect current society. This episode features some wonderful character work, with comic actor Miles Jupp delivering a great performance as the often petty Hibbert. However while Hibbert is in many ways a satire of an irritatingly over-zealous do-gooder, the strength of Morris’ script and Jupp’s performance, is that he and his family will have your sympathy as the horrors unfold. The Fixation is an excellent small town horror tale, chiming nicely with social issues we can relate to, but also using the medium of sound to fine creepy effect.

The third episode comes from Paul Magrs – another very well established author who’s written a very diverse range of books ranging from literary novels to mysteries to Doctor Who fiction. And Mr Magrs is no stranger to audio drama either having scripted several radio plays for the BBC and numerous Doctor Who audio adventures for Big Finish. And his past experience serves him well here in Spanish Ladies. It’s the twisted tale of an overbearing Mummy and her grown-up son Phil who isn’t so much still tied to her apron strings as positively ensnared in them.

For the most part, it plays out like an Alan Bennett piece, all sharply observed but slightly comic dialogue, but when the truly horrible Mummy, played to perfection by Jacqueline King, discovered that not so young Phil has found some romance, you know things are going to take a turn for the worse. Now the magic of good audio drama is painting pictures with words and sounds, and the medium is used to brilliantly hideous effect in Spanish Ladies. It’s pure horror dripping out the speakers!

Overall, it’s fair to say that Hammer Chillers certainly hit the mark and the production company Bafflegab have excelled themselves. They’ve delivered some top notch radio horror here. And aside from the quality scripts and performances, where this series really excels is the fact that they use the medium of sound so well in the stories, truly and fully embracing the audio medium to deliver the chills. Speaking as some one whose listened to a lot of horror radio past and present, with these first three episodes Hammer Chillers are well on the way to establishing themselves as a modern classic of audio horror.

Posted by Mr. Jim Moon

The SFFaudio Podcast #215 – Xe Sands and Spoken Freely (Going Public In Shorts)

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastSpoken Freely Presents: Going Public ... In ShortsThe SFFaudio Podcast #215 – Jesse talks to narrator Xe Sands about Spoken Freely: Going Public In Shorts.

Talked about on today’s show:
Xe is a family name, xenon, a rare poisonous gas, a noble gas, the Going Public project, poems, stories, D.H. Lawrence, Banned Books Weeks, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Peter Davies, Little Fictions, Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, first person narration, changing sides, Herland, The Pit And The Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe, suspense, Paul Michael Garcia, 36 stories, 1 essay, Simon Vance, 1 speech, Dion Graham, Abraham Lincoln, blog hopping throughout the month of June, Downpour.com, verklempt, Xe Sands narrates literary fiction, general fiction, and romance, beefcake, a melodramatic emotional journey, Magnificence, The Vanishers, The Bostonians by Henry James, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, Three Days To Dead, Hexes and Hemlines, cozy mysteries, Washington, Juliet Blackwell, a familiar pig, literary fiction vs. general fiction, W.W. Norton, Anton Chekhov, Digital Divide: Writings for and Against Facebook, YouTube, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking by Mark Bauerlein, the culture of SoundCloud, bulletin board systems, here’s what happens when a spider lands on you when you’re recording a love theme, Xe Sands on Twitter is @xesands, coffee, how to start on Twitter, pre-reading, pronunciation, questions, post-apocalyptic Seattle, Tarnished And Torn, The Cursed (League of the Black Swan, #1) by Alyssa Day, Reachout And Read, Cassandra Campbell, Dick Hill, Mark Twain, Luke Daniels, Philip K. Dick, Kevin Hearne, Patrick Lawlor, The Lottery Ticket by Anton Chekov, next year?, LittleFiction.com, Amanda Leduc.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #181 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #181 – The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions, read by Julie Davis (of Forgotten Classics and A Good Story Is Hard To Find). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novella (2 Hours 40 Minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Scott, Jesse, and Julie Davis!

Talked about on today’s show: Yay!, Scott has another busy year, The Odyssey, Beowulf, length vs. content, is The Beckoning Fair One too long for it’s material?, modern colloquial terms (for 1910), Stephen King, The Forbidden Books Group Presents, Necronomipod: The Lair Of The Bookish Worm did a podcast discussion of The Beckoning Fair One, The Shining, writer protagonists, Bag Of Bones, The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James, surprise endings, ambiguity, a writer’s point of view, Julie’s sister can see ghosts, now is the time in the podcast for a personal ghost story, the ghosts of Logan, Utah, troubled or troublesome nuns, are ghostly experiences possible during the daylight?, doppelgänger, an urban phenomena, a haunted hotel room, a vivid vision of a drowning, a disappearing maid, nightmares, a premonition, Christine, why are there no haunted beach?, haunted cars, gremlins, hiking, a haunted hiking trail, machete vs. axe, ‘there’s something wrong with that bedroom’, there’s something wrong with that, the ontological argument, House, M.D., between the ultraviolet and the infrared, a great title, the dripping of a faucet, The Sarah Bennett Quintet, suicide, Oleron is unconscious of the things that he’s conscious of, who’s sleeping in my bed?, a ghostly brushing, “he wakes up to himself”, a harp cover, Oléron is an island in France, and Romilly is a city in France, is the house playing him like a harp?, the final chapter, Jesse’s not super swift, a shut in, vegetable refuse, wig-stands, a large lumpy pudding, the recurring “triangle”, it has esoteric meaning to Freemasons, how did Elsie end up in the closet?, “you get to decide”, an alternative suspect, the tramp in the basement, the Hobo marks, “don’t push the religious angle”, firemarks (fire insurance marks), starving artists, why men have to get married, a Jonathan Swift shout-out, Elsie had a Brobdingnagian complexion, “I need you and I want you to marry me.”, sticking with the spooky, maybe Julie’s in an insane asylum?, Community, Red Dwarf is an excellent Science Fiction show, The Booth At The End, H.P. Lovecraft, Dagon, The Colour Out Of Space, The Statement Of Randolph Carter, The Dunwich Horror, amorphous horror, a gelatinous voice, Gregg Margarite, The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe, this podcast is making me hurry for rosewater pudding, The Sixth Sense, Signs, Joaquin Phoenix, The Master, Baron Münchhausen, The Takeaway Movie Date, The Big Book Of Ghost Stories edited by Otto Penzler, Donald E. Westlake, the ghost of the paperback, Jesse has a guardian angel?, Parker, Jason Statham is a modern action movie star like they had in the 1980s, The Bank Job, Anarchaos by Curt Clark (aka Donald E. Westlake), Smoke, Humans, Firebird by Jack McDevitt, Will Duquette, Hans Christian Andersen, Oscar Wilde.

Romilly

The Big Book Of Ghost Stories edited by Otto Penzler

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #178 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #178 – An unabridged reading of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (32 minutes, read for LibriVox by Michelle Sullivan) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Tamahome, Jenny Colvin, and Julie Hoverson.

Talked about on today’s show:
Charlotte Perkins Gilman vs. Charlotte Perkins Stetson, wall-paper vs. wallpaper, a seminal work of feminist fiction, a ghost story, a psychological horror story, the Wikipedia entry for The Yellow Wallpaper, Alan Ryan, “quite apart from its origins [it] is one of the finest, and strongest, tales of horror ever written. It may be a ghost story. Worse yet, it may not.” postpartum depression, “the rest cure”, phosphates vs. phosphites, condescending husbands, infantilization of women, superstitions, is she dangerous?, is she only pretending to go insane or is she actually mad?, will reading The Yellow Wallpaper drive you to insanity?, an androcentric society, Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, Life by Emily Dickinson

MUCH madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
’T is the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur,—you ’re straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.

Jenny is the husband’s sister (or mistress?), “gymnasium or prison, she doesn’t know she’s living in a short story”, does the family think she’s crazy a the story’s start?, biting the bed is a bit suspicious, barred windows, suicide, has she forgotten that she’s the wrecked the wallpaper to begin with, a haunted house vs. a haunted woman, is the supernatural only within minds?, Julie goes crazy without something to read, first time motherhood can be a struggle, duplicity, crazy people are known to make unreasonable requests, “why is the cork on the fork?”, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, what’s the rope for?, “all persons need work”, counting the holes, are women moral by default?, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, utopia, “everything is both beautiful and practical”, the eighteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution (prohibition), the husband faints (and so she wins?), creeping vs. crawling, the creepiest ending, smooch vs. smudge, neurasthenia, William James (brother of Henry James), “Americanitis”, the fashion of being sick, hypochondria as a fad, the “fresh air” movement, Kellogg’s cereal 9and other patented medicines), a yogurt colonic, mental illness is shameful in Asia, mental illness vs. oppression, an absolutely unreliable narrator, Stockholm syndrome style thinking, “You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well under way in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you.” worrying a tooth, tooth loss as an adult is horrific, as a kid it’s fun, why are we rewarded by the tooth-fairy?, is the tooth-fairy universal?, was chronic fatigue syndrome a fad?, fame is popular, Münchausen’s syndrome (the disease of faking a disease), take up a hobby!, distinguishing genuine from real, syndrome (symptoms that occur together) vs. disease (dis-ease), “which is worse…”, how to look at doctors, Tam’s doctor is nicer than House, M.D., witch doctors, non-invasive cures, gallium, Vitamin C, The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean, Julie Hoverson’s reading of The Yellow Wallpaper, the unnamed narrator (let’s call her Julie), “what’s with the plantain leaf?”, a modern version of The Yellow Wallpaper would be set at fat camp (is that The Biggest Loser), starts off, Flowers In The Attic by V.C. Andrews, arsenic doughnuts (are not Münchausen syndrome by proxy), The Awakening by Kate Chopin, civilizing influence, bathing!, “men know what side their sex is buttered on”, In The Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) by Sarah Ruhl, Changeling (screenplay by J. Michael Straczynski), what is your Yellow Wallpaper?, fiction is Jesse’s wallpaper, ‘tv, videogames, comics … none of these make you crazy’, heroin chic, Julie has many yellow papers, Tam’s yellow wallpaper is the bookstore, Sebastian Junger vs. J.G. Ballard, 1920s, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, posing gowns, identical wigs, Jenny’s yellow wallpaper is dreams, The Evil Clergyman (aka The Wicked Clergyman) by H.P. Lovecraft, nice wallpaper, authorial self-interpretations, Eric S. Rabkin, re-reading as an adult something you read as a kid, The Prince Of Morning Bells by Nancy Kress, The Portrait Of A Lady by Henry James, The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, old time radio comedies, should you read fiction from the beginning? Start with Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer?, Hyperion by Dan Simmons, Jonathan Swift, Peter F. Hamilton, E.E. ‘doc’ Smith, Mastermind Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Ad for The Yellow Wall Paper from 1910

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - illustration by J.K. Potter

Sebastian Junger vs. J.G.  Ballard

Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper - illustrated by Hyperphagia

Posted by Jesse Willis

Recent Arrivals: AudioGo: H.P. Lovecraft’s Book Of The Supernatural edited by Stephen Jones

SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

Recently arrived, and currently being soaked in through my skin and ears, is this giant collection of weird fiction. Assembled from a list of stories found in H.P. Lovecraft’s essay Supernatural Horror In Literature, it is a collection of well known and obscure classics by authors that H.P. Lovecraft loved.

Looking at the table of contents I noted that I’d already read several of the stories in this collection – including The Turn Of The Screw (we did a podcast about that one), the engimatic Christmas horror Markheim, the scientific ghost tale What Was It?, the unutterably creepy and horrific The Voice In The Night very recently, and many years ago, perhaps in high school, The Yellow Wallpaper. But even though I’ve read some of these stories already I’m still very excited. Each of the stories seems to be preceded by some relevant words by Lovecraft himself – and at the very least I will be listening to the mini-introductions to those stories I am well familiar with.

Until then I will content myself in listening to the unknown ones. For example, the frightful first person narrative of Who Knows? by Guy de Maupassant is thrilling and wondering me in the exact same way The Horla almost exactly one year ago. It’s wonderful!

AUDIO GO - H.P. Lovecraft's Book Of The Supernatural edited by Stephen Jones

H.P. Lovecraft’s Book Of The Supernatural
Edited by Stephen Jones; Read by Bronson Pinchot, Stephen Crossley, Davina Porter, Madeleine Lambert, Mark Peckham
MP3 DOWNLOAD – Approx. 16 Hours 44 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: AudioGo
Published: August 1, 2012
Written by arguably the most important horror writer of the twentieth century, H.P. Lovecraft’s 1927 essay Supernatural Horror in Literature traces the evolution of the genre from the early Gothic novels to the work of contemporary American and British authors. Throughout, Lovecraft acknowledges those authors and stories that he feels are the very finest the horror field has to offer: Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson, Guy de Maupassant, Ambrose Bierce, and Arthur Conan Doyle, each prefaced by Lovecraft’s own opinions and insights in their work. This chilling collection also contains Henry James’ wonderfully atmospheric short novel…The Turn of the Screw. For every fan of modern horror, here is an opportunity to rediscover the origins of the genre with some of most terrifying stories ever imagined.

Here’s the table of contents:
Introduction by editor Stephen Jones – Approx. 7 Minutes
Notes on Writing Weird Fiction By H.P. Lovecraft – Approx. 11 Minutes
The Tale of the German Student by Washington Irving – Approx. 14 Minutes
Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson – Approx. 49 Minutes
Who Knows? by Guy de Maupassant – Approx. 34 Minutes
The Invisible Eye by Erckmann-Chatrian – Approx. 41 Minutes
The Torture by Hope by Villiers de l’Isle Adam – Approx. 15 Minutes
Ms. Found in a Bottle by Edgar Allan Poe – Approx. 29 Minutes
What Was It? by Fitz-James O’Brien – Approx. 34 Minutes
The Middle Toe of the Right Foot by Ambrose Bierce – Approx. 24 Minutes
The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James – Approx. 4 Hours 52 Minutes
The Dead Smile by F. Marion Crawford – Approx. 57 Minutes
The Wind In The Rose-Bush by Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman – Approx. 38 Minutes
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Approx. 36 Minutes
The Recrudescence of Imray by Rudyard Kipling – Approx. 30 Minutes
The Hands Of Karma (Ingwa-banashi) by Lafcadio Hearn – Approx. 11 Minutes
The Burial Of The Rats by Bram Stoker – Approx. 1 Hour 7 Minutes
The Red Lodge by H.R. Wakefield – Approx. 35 Minutes
The Captain Of The Pole-Star by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Approx. 1 Hour 6 Minutes
The Villa Desiree by May Sinclair – Approx. 28 Minutes
The Voice In The Night by William Hope Hodgson – Approx. 36 Minutes
Novel of the White Powder by Arthur Machen – Approx. 48 Minutes

Posted by Jesse Willis