Ghostwatch (1992)

DailyView: Day 326, Movie 468

I have to say, after watching Ghostwatch, I am quite unnerved and have a tightness in the pit of my stomach. I can’t imagine watching this live on the BBC and not knowing that it was a piece of ficiton.

Broadcast originally on Halloween night, 1992, the mockumentary style live film was filmed weeks before, but the audience was not fully aware of the situation and it reportedly caused quite a furor with viewers. It had never been rebroadcast on the BBC since that night and it is a difficult film to get a chance to watch.

In fact, I have been looking for a version of this since the beginning of the DailyView, but it was no longer available on Shudder or Amazon or any of the other streamers that I use. However, today I found the full film on Internet Archive, a sight where I finally got a chance to see what was considered one of the most controversial shows on television.

British broadcaster and journalist Michael Parkinson hosted the documentary, which looked like a news special, by talking in studio to a parapsychology expert Dr. Lin Pascoe (Gillian Bevan), and sending the camera to other locations, including inside the house that was considered ‘The most haunted house in Britain’ and where the investigation was taking place with Sarah Greene (who played herself) anchoring the coverage along with a camera crew.

At the location was a single mom (Brid Brennan) and her two girls, Kim (Cherise Wesson) and Suzanne (Michelle Wesson), who were being tormented by a spirit that Kim would call ‘Pipes’ from the banging sound that would be made in the house. Dr. Pascoe had been with the family and was a believer in what was going on, though plenty of the people involved were more skeptical, including Parkinson.

They had a section of the studio assigned to take phone calls from the viewers, who would see things on their screens that others could not see…including the mysterious Pipes.

The program built through its hour and a half slowly, providing details and information that fueled the story, and continued to keep viewers on edge. You could feel how it was building toward something happening (and happen it damn sure well did).

The film did an expert job of providing not only those people who believed in what they were seeing as well as those experts who considered it a fraud. When Suzanne was found banging on the wall, it seemed as if the case of fraud had been proven, making Parkinson confident that the program had shown the truth.

I thought this was brilliantly constructed and exceptionally worked the tension of the moment up with every step of the time. Everything about the program screamed credible and made you think it was truly happening. Even I, who knew this was a program, found myself embroiled in the mystery and the story.

Ghostwatch was written by Stephen Volk, who was a known Welsh horror screenwriter and novelist, and directed by Lesley Manning. It has been awhile since a horror film has left me feeling as uneasy as this one did. It was a fantastic special and I am so glad that I finally got a chance to see it for myself.

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