Ghostwatch ★★★★½

1992. I would give several essential parts of my body to get the opportunity to travel back to that year. Not so I can be 17 again, but so my 17 year old self could have the chance to watch Ghostwatch live.

In what is perhaps one of the best TV pranks ever, the usually rather reserved BBC decides to produce an absolutely terrifying fake live television event investigating a haunted house. Having British TV icon Parky host the proceedings is one of many flashes of brilliance, giving it a sense of realism and importance. Surely good old Parky wouldn't want us 'to have sleepless nights'.

The true star here and the main reason this works so well is writer Stephen Volk. He has crafted a tale that unfolds like only the best ghost stories do. It is subtle and invests in backstory and atmosphere rather than cheap scares. Given the limited setting he is impressively creative in finding the chills and thrills. The slow build up is perfect, cranking it up a few notches in the phenomenal final 20 minutes or so. Freaking me out with something that has already been proven a hoax is very impressive.

Volk's fantastic ideas are useless without a great execution. And I think, seeing the huge amount of complaints and controversy it got when it aired, it is safe to say it is executed brilliantly. Subtle, inventive and (barring a spot of poor acting or two) utterly convincing, Ghostwatch is not only an interesting experiment of sorts, it is also an incredible horror film. It is impossible to ignore the influence this film must have had on the likes of the Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. Especially the latter borrows heavily from this film.

To be young again will probably mean, 'move to England and watch Ghostwatch live' for a good while to come. Seeing how it managed to scare me now, I can only imagine what it would do to my seventeen year old brain.

For fans, it is worthwhile to check out the writer's website. He has written a short story sequel to Ghostwatch called '31\10'. It's available as a free pdf here. It's a great read making Mr. Volk an author I will definitely be reading more of.

DirkH liked this review