Tuesday, 6 December 2016

We're still getting calls about that shadowy figure...

Greetings, Ghostwatchers!

Almost twenty-five years on, and it seems that Mr. Pipes still delights in tormenting his audience with further, potential hidden appearances. So much so, in fact, that one Ghostwatcher in particular - James Syrett, recently got in touch, to suggest a few new possible sightings of his very own...

Before we start, it's worth noting that Dr. Lin Pascoe's eloquently logical notion of 'Faces in the Fire', remains something of a much-loved mantra, around these parts. We know that there are definitely eight confirmed sightings of the notoriously-bashful Raymond Tunstall, one debunked, and perhaps as many as five more left to track down, in total. It's also worth a mention that although the golden figure of "Thirteen" appearances is posited during the doc, the actual final tally could well have reduced/increased, during the exhaustive edit of the original film.

Monday, 31 October 2016

National Séance 2016

Greetings, Ghostwatchers!

First, has anyone else noticed their old Teletext service has suddenly returned, or is it just me..? If this happens again, I'll be sure to let you know. Spooky, eh?

In other news, hope you can all join us later this evening, for National Séance 2016! This year marks our sixth live event, and the last before next year's big Ghostwatch Twenty-Fifth Anniversary. As always, the glorious proceedings kick off, just like the original, at 21:25, Tonight.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Only at the BBC, loves!

Greetings, Ghostwatchers!

So, news. But first, a recap. In late 2007, when I first met writer, Stephen Volk at The Watershed, Bristol, so intermittently timorous was I in handing over my treatment for then-pie-in-the-sky documentary project, first momentarily titled, Ghostwatch: Behind the Scenes, that I very nearly walked out of the building before I even got the chance. Though, to be fair, I was just about to miss the last train home. Then, a few seconds later, I did.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Bag Pipes

Greetings, Ghostwatchers! On Wednesday 24th August, in the heart of bustling, tram-linked city of Edinburgh, Scotland, Filmhouse (home of the city's International Film Festival), hosted the world premiere of Red Dwarf XI, set to air on Dave beginning, 22nd September. And guess who flew up to Auld Reekie to check out the proceedings. No clues, just have a guess.

Moderated by SFX Editor, Richard Edwards, the event notably featured an appearance from our very own Hallowe'en Witchboard enthusiast, Craig Charles.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Elly's watching you...

Image courtesy of Lionsgate
Ironically, this all seems slightly unreal.

There had been some rustling in the leaves for a while surrounding upcoming Horror flick, The Woods, but earlier today, news finally broke that the upcoming film, set for release this September, is in fact a long-awaited sequel to Indie classic, The Blair Witch Project!

Made on a shoestring in 1997, the original film was later released in 1999 to enormous worldwide commercial success, and a positive critical response. The first industrial metal-fueled sequel, Book of Shadows shortly followed in 2000, and is often regarded as, well, not quite up to the lofty standards of its predecessor. Personally, I must admit to having slightly more time for its central, mass-hysteria-centric conceit than some, which feels more grounded and intriguing a concept on repeat viewings. Give it another go if you can, especially if watched alongside its short film accompaniments, Shadow of the Blair Witch and The Burkittsville 7.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Can we see that tape?

Relatively few examples of contemporary media have best withstood the test of time more so than the Video Home System, better known as good old VHS cassette tapes.

Tactile, reliable, and still in use today, they no doubt remain an integral part of many Ghostwatchers' early lives. Largely phased out to make way for LaserDiscs, DVDs and other higher-def formats, Ghostwatch nevertheless holds the distinct honour of being one of the BFI's final video releases, released back in 2002.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, Late Show..!

This might not come as much of a surprise, but for my taste, documentaries arguably represent the purest form of film. Drama, almost by default, strives to meet that same baseline level of realism, which I suppose is where my appreciation of faux docos, or Cinéma vérité stems. Like so many others, I count more than a few examples of (f)actual docs as being among my personal favourites. But in my experience, there always seems to be one that, for whatever reason, stands out, personally.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

No Gothic towers, no shuttered windows...

Greetings, Ghostwatchers!

Just a quick heads-up that if you happen to be in the vicinity of Newcastle Castle Keep's Great Hall on Friday 17th June, at around 7pm, you might like to check out a very special screening of Ken Russell's Gothic, presented by Novocastria Macabre, in association with Screen Demons Horror Film Festival - and set to feature a must-see Q&A with screenwriter and Ghostwatch creator, Stephen Volk, and David Pirie, author of A Heritage Of Horror.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

... Did you say that?

Greetings, Ghostwatchers! Following on from our recent piece on Samhain Magazine, we were lucky enough to speak to its creator, John Gullidge on how the publication came to be, his thoughts on our favourite Hallowe'en Hoax, and what he's up to now...

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Samhain #59-61

Despite a suitably enigmatic aura, the shadowy spectre of Samhain Magazine still looms heavy in the scope of deep, Ghostwatchian research. Now sadly out of print, the monthly publication (described as Britain's Longest Running Horror Film Magazine) once covered many a genre gamut – from TV to Film, Horror to Fantasy, and beyond.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Is it the Wiig or the hat?

Been biting my tongue on this one, but if yesterday's second teaser for the upcoming Ghostbusters says anything, it's that the business of remaking a classic is no less a barefoot hot coal walk than it has been since, well, ever.

According to legend, writer/creator/lead actor/blues hero/vodka connoisseur, Dan Aykroyd has been trying to get a third film made for decades. Makes sense to me. Even at its weakest (which ain't saying much), the first installment was unmistakably for the time capsule, the sequel only marginally failed to recapture that proton stream in a bottle a second time around, and the burgeoning franchise even managed to spawn a very well-written and received cartoon show. Like the characters' albeit fictional business in the film, from a marketing standpoint alone, Ghostbusters clearly has legs.

In all fairness, the trailer opens well, with some suitably haunting piano chords evoking a wonderful nostalgia, only to be unraveled by some dunderheaded title cards that seem only to muddle the single biggest issue surrounding the film itself - is this a soft or hard reboot?

The notion of a new band of busters isn't anything new. A plethora of big names have been broached over the years as being potential box office-satisfying accompaniments to the original cast. Though the very thought of injecting some fresh blood always seemed to be dependent on the (other) Fab Four in some way either passing on the torch, or serving as proto-Spock Prime-like mentors, throughout.

At first glance, strong proponents for a hard Ghostbusters reboot appear to be thin on the ground, and arguably, with good reason. Certainly, the prospect of somehow seeking to better the source material would surely be such an uphill struggle, that it would be far more propitious a bet to simply play to the established cinematic universe's obvious strengths and attempt to more naturally bridge/transition a new crew with the old? After all, even with its galaxy-sized web of interwoven continuity, Star Trek managed to do so, a few years back. Actually, Star Trek pretty much nailed it.

Cast-wise, this new troupe all seem to be highly capable, across the board. Most recently recalling her star turn in The Martian, Kristen Wiig in particular is a strong and reliably funny presence. Individually, I completely understand the reasoning behind this particular group casting. But as a unit, I also fail to see enough of the instantly-recognisable magic that made that first team so enduring (by this trailer's own admission, now, three decades and counting).

The new Ectomobile doesn't exactly scream wow, either. And given the choice between these here CG ghoulies and their 'archaic' photo-chemical ancestors, I think you already know which showcase I would prefer. Fan favourite Slimer is also clearly present, but why would you call one ghost 'Slimer' if practically all the ghosts depicted herein 'slime' characters, too? Maybe this time around, they might actually refer to him as 'The Onion Head', as first conceived.

AND WHILE I'M AT IT, the new ghost busting equipment... it feels too, for want of a better word, offensive.

The late, great Harold Ramis is on record saying how he once read an article where teachers and child psychologists were applauding the inaugural film's positive influence, as they suddenly found that kids weren't playing Cowboys & Indians anymore, but rather teaming up in the school yard to defend themselves from the great unknown. Now, it seems, we've got characters wielding (or in at least one shot, tonguing) proton pistols and grenade belts, and I can't help but feel that one of the original, most important messages has been lost, somehow. As a spooked seven year old, I didn't want to blast Pipes into a million strands of ectoplasm, I wanted to safely and securely entrap him within the thrumming, fire engine red, Containment Unit where he belonged.

That said(!), I'm sure the chances are, anyone who hasn't seen the original will get a kick out of this when it opens in theatres (until they eventually discover its barely-aged predecessor, perhaps). For me, thus far, it just seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity, given that the original cast, with the very sad exception of Harold, are still kicking about, and remain as funny, capable and talented as ever. Considering the undoubtedly negative response this (admittedly, first look) teaser appears to have evoked, the makers would surely have saved themselves a whole heap of trouble, by merely developing a more original concept to effectively allow their latest, talented contributors to shine.

Prove me wrong, NewBusters. I promise, I won't mind if you do.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Red Dwarf XII (... Craig's in it)

"First rule in government spending... Why build one, when you can have two at twice the price?"

Have you seen, Contact? It's brilliant. In other news, already it seems, Red Dwarf XII is finally upon us, despite XI having yet to hit the airwaves. Indirectly taking a leaf from John Hurt's above-quoted, S.R. Hadden (or perhaps more directly, the Superman and Matrix sequels), both new series are filming practically back-to-back. Incidentally, have you seen Superman II? It's brilliant.

Hurtling back to reality for just a brief moment, this week's as-yet unnamed episode (unless it really is going to be called 'S12.E02' - in which case, see above for an 'exclusive' 'screen-grab') followed much the same pattern as the last show we reported from, certainly in terms of setup and general preamble. Just to set the scene for you, before each evening begins, having handed over their tickets, audience members then proceed to gather in a whacking great marquee tent, just a short trek from the recording studio (imagine a zeppelin hangar with cinema seats) where they can pick up a pre-show cup of coffee, soft drink, or similar hydrogen-based beverage. For several hours, tension builds in fevered anticipation. Then, like clockwork, a mass exodus to the on-site portaloos, before further unbearable minutes of queuing outside in the otherwise tepid, arctic breeze.

It is at this point that you realise just how excited everyone is around you, and promptly forget how you've recently lost all feeling in your fingers. The buzz is inexplicably infectious. Put it this way, if Television is the dramatic equivalent of a pre-packaged ready-meal, then studio recording is surely the gentle nudge that reminds you just how wonderfully unique and nourishing the experience of a home-cooked, live performance can truly be.

The recording itself proved to be a rather enjoyable, if unexpectedly eccentric affair. Again, without wanting to give away anything particularly revealing in terms of plot, at its heart, this episode was mostly an ensemble piece for the main crew, however we were also treated to some brand-new, centrifugal guest characters. Performance-wise, all were pretty much spot on as per, not least of all when taking time aside to boost the mostly-patient crowd between scenes, who willingly sat through not only a number of technical breaks, but also a slightly later start and wrap than usual.

For the most part, I can't recall witnessing an edition of Red Dwarf quite like this, before. Now three days on, and I'm still not quite sure what to make of that. At times, the proceedings were surreal to say the least, and tonally-speaking, closer to... well, something else. In the interests of preserving spoilers (and my kneecaps), I'll leave it up to you to ponder what, or indeed who I am (not) referring to. A tad unfair, I know, but post-transmission, you probably won't agree with me, anyway. Who knows, perhaps this may prove to be the narrative equivalent of a Rorschach test.

Once again, dialogue-wise, there were some slight nods to past adventures - odd, when you consider the notoriously fluidic continuity that has dogged the show's albeit fictional history books, over the years - fun, if you happen to be a self-confessed continuity-junkie like yours truly. My personal, all-time favourite touch (to date) being the addition of a simple red stencil to set designer, Mel Bibby's upgraded Series III bunk-room sets, which read, 'Officer's Quarters'. So bloody clever. And symbolic of the kind of imaginative and collaborative production philosophy that back in the day, seemed to encourage as many good ideas being (literally) taken on-board, as possible.

It's been said (by me, here, now) that one of the strongest virtues of Red Dwarf has long-been its chameleonic ability to transmogrify and evolve, series to series. Most fans will tell you that Series II is a slight, but marked improvement over Series I, whilst Series III likewise builds on II, and so on and so forth (though arguably, post-Series VI, this became less of a cast-iron pattern). The trick, I suppose, is to drip-feed enough imperceptible improvements, so that each new block of episodes doesn't feel like a jarring giant leap, but rather progressive small step. Technically speaking, compared to the original BBC run, what I have been most fortunate enough to experience from XI & XII looks and feels very much, Red Dwarf HD, but still jauntily-despondent in its clockwork digs at modern-day life that helped make its inaugural run so perpetually engaging. For me, the central conceit this time around evoked an interesting, objective notion - dare I say, even useful. Only time will tell if in fact these kaleidoscopic brushstrokes are broad enough to register as well on transmission, like say, such classics as Meltdown, Justice or Terrorform.

Last word - when you consider the undoubtedly-sizable investment in producing all these new sets, miniatures and the like, one cannot help but wonder if ultimately, all this exciting momentum may finally be building for a certain, long-gestating, Dwarfian feature film project, or even the long-mooted live tour... Now, that would be a turn-up for the Space Corps Directives manual. Particularly when you consider the irreplaceable principle cast are only continuing to age both in grace and flair, in a manner befitting only the very finest vintage vino (that doesn't leave you with a foam mustache that can only be removed with turps).

So... have you seen Red Dwarf [S12.E02]? It's brilliant. Probably.