GhostWatch is the most terrifying thing I have ever seen. While it was obvious to me, twenty years after its creation, that the show is a fake, it is so hideously (gloriously?) nineties that I can’t help but sympathise with the people who thought it was real at the time of broadcast. It is genuinely horrific. I felt like I’d been for a run after, my heart was racing. It stars Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene and Craig Charles. It was written by Stephen Volk.
I checked the wiki page and apparently a scared young boy killed himself after having watched it. There were bangs in his house too. They were caused by the central heating rather than a poltergeist. He was still terrified. He’d been allowed to watch because Sarah Greene was in it and his mum thought it would be ok for him to watch because she was a children’s TV presenter. It wasn’t ok for me to watch, and I’m a good ten years older than that boy.
I don’t want to link to wikipedia, because for some things spoilers genuinely ruin it, and for a program that depends on suspense for its malicious horror, disaster will follow any attempt to spoil the fun.
I came home from work after a long Thursday and my boyfriend was excited about a DVD he’d got for £3 at HMV. A masterpiece of horror he’d been after for ages but had never seen properly. I sat and watched with growing skepticism. I’m a graduate of the school of Derek Acorah and Most Haunted. Showy, obviously faked, medium-ship. The initially dull, almost flippant, tone of GhostWatch is the antithesis of what I’ve grown to expect from a decent ghost hunt.
I grew bored. I ate pasta and scoffed at the strange way Michael Parkinson’s suit seemed to be slowly devouring his neck. I admired Sarah Greene’s baggy t-shirt and the half-arsed way the BBC had seen fit to decorate a supposedly haunted house for halloween. There were some antics with Craig Charles leaping from cupboards and ducking for apples. I was bored.
A fairly average suburban family start talking about their experiences with a ghost they’ve nicknamed Pipes, and that’s when the dread starts to creep in. There’s screaming and banging followed by eerie silence as Michael Parkinson and Expert Woman (whose name I’ve forgotten) watch on their huge screen from the apparent safety of the studio.
The children practically skip to the cupboard under the stairs and peer through the hole they sometimes see the ghost through. The youngest describes his face, like its half eaten, and I decide that actually, I don’t want to see. The children talk about the ghost like he’s a pet that excites and terrifies them in equal measure.
There are flashes, times when the ghost is half in your field of vision, ’til the camera pans and there’s nothing. There is the ever present menace of the idea that you might see and you really don’t want to. When it’s all over there’s the relief, but also the lingering idea that you would rather see what was going on than have it creep up on you from a dark corner.
The only ghost story to scare me in a very long time. If you knew me at all, you’d mark the significance of my lack of bitching about cinematography. Since you don’t know me: it is absent, and this is significant.
Verdict: The scariest thing ever. Actually.
P.S There are heaps of fascinating articles written about GhostWatch, one even by the writer himself, but I won’t post them until later on. I am very against leading to spoilers in this instance.