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Ghostwatch – 7

Director – Lesley Manning

Cast – Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene, Gillian Bevan, Mike Smith, Craig Charles, Brid Brennan, Michelle Wesson, Cherise Wesson

Release Year – 1992 (TV)

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I first heard of Ghostwatch not too long ago, and being an American I obviously was not exposed to it as a child when it debuted in the UK back in 1992. One of the few television movies EVER to spook and leave a lasting impact on an entire country, this 90 minute experience aided in opening the door for the POV and reality-esque filmmaking that was subsequently popularized by The Blair Witch Project. While this experience is pretty tame for our modern day, I did find Ghostwatch to be an engaging effort that had me glued to the screen despite its lack of horror at times. Few films have attained such a lasting impact as this one, and that is definitely justified when the closing credits hit after it’s horrifying third act.

The BBC has devoted an entire evening to an “investigation into the supernatural” where two hosts, two reporters, and camera crews attempt to discover the truth behind what has been deemed “The most haunted house in Britain”. The hosts are expecting a light-hearted investigation that will maybe provide a few spooks or expose a hoax, but things slowly turn awry as they continuously lose control of the situation inside the home. Millions of viewers at home have tuned in “for a laugh”, yet ninety minutes later the entire country will be left with consequences still relevant to this day.

First off, I must say that this is one truly spectacular effort at making a horrific experience feel like a real one. The BBC was fantastic in creating an atmosphere that looked and felt like a real late-night broadcast, and the subject matter complimented it by giving us the usual elements involved in such a broadcast. We follow several characters, which consist mainly of guest host Dr. Lin Pascoe, a believer in the paranormal, and host Michael Parkinson (as himself), a skeptic who believes a logical reason (hoax) lies behind the strange occurrences in the home. They are corresponding mostly with reporter Sarah Greene(as herself) who is within the haunted home and working with the family to gather evidence and visual proof of supernatural activity. Most of the broadcast is pretty tame and consists of little scares and the occasional spook that turns out to be something with a logical and often silly explanation. Of course, this film would not have its reputation without at least delivering a few spooks, and there is where the third act kicks things up several notches. Ultimately I never felt that this flick was overly scary, and more along the lines of “it was scary for its time, especially with the younger audience), but the story is solid and does what it has to do to deliver the horror.

Director Leslie Manning did a fine job with this piece, and as mentioned earlier it was the realistic look and execution of the film that really set the standard for the reality-esque films that have followed over two decades later. The acting performances from the main characters of the film, the two hosts and two reporters, were pretty good, with the “other” actors being pretty much mediocre. As with most TV films there is a line that they cannot cross regarding scares and gore, so you can expect little of each with Manning’s direction. What Manning does do right is provide a high level of creepiness and effectively execute the horror as best as a director can with the limitations of television standards, especially with the (forgive me for this) “neutered” UK. Some will balk at the film’s lack of supreme scares and say that the psychological impact and controversy surrounding the film are just results from Britain’s inability to deal with horror, but if I was a child and saw this I think I would have been left with a livelong experience as well.

Overall, Ghostwatch is a very effective television horror movie that deserves the recognition that it has, which sadly is mostly reserved to its home unitary state of the United Kingdom. The story is good and it provides the necessary creepiness and a few interesting scenes as well, and with simple yet effective direction this slow-paced experience winds up being an enjoyable one for me, and one millions of affected people will never forget.

Rating: 7/10

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