Sunday, November 07, 2010


Yes, it's true.  Not only did we turn our clocks back an hour last night, we also seem to have slipped back a week in our Halloween Viewing!

In actual fact, we just kept forgetting that we had the Psychoville Halloween Special to watch, and finally remembered yesterday.  I've really got to start writing this stuff down.

For those unfamiliar, Psychoville is the brainchild of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, formerly of The League of Gentlemen.  Series One ran last year on the BBC and was a brilliant mixture of horror and comedy as five character, most of them played by Shearsmith and Pemberton themselves, received haunting messages threatening to expose their secrets.  And those secrets involved madness, murder, and a mysterious locket.

It was one of the best shows I watched in 2009, particularly Episode Four, which was an inspired retelling of Hitchcock's Rope, as mother/son murder-team David and Maureen do their best to hide their victim from a surprise guest, and it's all done entirely in one shot.  That episode was perhaps the best single viewing experience of the year.

Series Two is on the way and scheduled for airing sometime next year.  But to hold us over until then, the BBC commissioned a Halloween Special and if the ratings were any indication, I'm not the only person anxiously awaiting the return of this series.

The Halloween Special opens with a flashback to Halloween 1997, as a young boy is dared to sneak into the horrific Ravenhill Hospital, steal something to prove he did it, and then sneak out.  And he almost makes it, if only it weren't for the alarm system - our old friend, David, wired up to an electric chair!

From there we cut to the present, as the boy has grown up haunted by his experiences that night.  After seeing a notice in the paper about a new Ghost Hunting show scouting for locations, he has recommended the now abandoned Ravenhill Hospital and sets out to meet the rep for the show (played by Shearsmith).  This leads us to the show proper, which is a nice little tribute to the classic British portmanteau movies such as The Vault Of Horror and Tales From The Crypt (and, more recently, The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror, etc.).

The four stories contained within are all inspired by horror classics both new and old, and while none of them are 100%, they each contain a few good laughs and more than a couple really disturbing horror moments.  Sometimes both at the same time (remind me never to hire a prostitute on Halloween!).

The first story, "The Fears of a Clown," one-handed, hyper-cynical clown, Mr. Jelly settles in for a night of "No Tricks, No Treats," The Exorcist and a hooker, only to have his night turned upside down by two mysterious children in nightmarish costumes.  Seriously.  Those costumes spooked the hell out of me.

This entry garnered the most laughs from the Infernal Desire Machine household, thanks to the aforementioned "never hire a hooker on Halloween" moment I mentioned.  The story wrapped up a little too quickly for us, but that's mainly because we love Mr. Jelly.

Next, we have "The House Viewing That Bled."  I wasn't too taken with this one, to be honest.  But Joy and her doll-child have never really done the trick with me, either.  It also seemed to push the Joy-as-an-idiot idea a little too far.  I like her better when she's competent, but insane.

That said, the final image of this story was probably the most horrific and won me over.  Really.  It was ghoulish and grotesque.  Disturbing stuff with a bit of a laugh.

This is followed by "The Eyes of Oscar Lomax" which tells the tale of blind toy-collector Oscar Lomax and his assistant Tea Leaf.  Lomax is recovering from eye transplants, and begins to see things with his new eyes that no one else does.  It's a nice little nod to The Eye, but lacks in laughs and horror.

Although it was entertaining to see an appearance by a controversial classic "Gollywog" stuffed toy.  If it weren't for Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, I wouldn't have known what to make of that.

Finally, we visit David and Maureen in "The Hitchers."  David and his mother, Maureen, are my favorite characters in the Series.  David is a bizarre man-child, obsessed with serial killers, and his mother is very encouraging.  This story is a nightmare that David has in the asylum, where he and his mother, dressed as Frankenstein's Monster and the Bride break down on their way to a Halloween party and have to hitch a ride.

Yes, the sexual tension between the two is still there, and it's not just in the creepy choice of costumes.

Anyway, there's a serial killer on the loose, and David is sure that the man who picks them up is the culprit, and that his sleeping wife is actually dead.

I enjoyed this one, even with its completely out-of-left-field ending, with effects straight out of an 80s Horror Classic.  It's just not a classic that is in any way foreshadowed, so far as I can remember.  Maybe another viewing might set it up better, but it was a surprise ending that might not satisfy some viewers, but didn't bother me a bit.

The best part of all, though, is that once everything is said and done, it turns out that this isn't just a stand-alone Halloween special.  It takes place at the same time as the Series One finale, and ends with a glimpse at the upcoming Series Two, and new guest-star, Imelda Staunton.  Things are looking creepy, but a decidedly more science fiction-y twist.  Or maybe it's just the visual similarities in style to Fringe's Blair Brown and Massive Dynamic in the sneak peek.

I can't find the trailer anywhere online, though, or I'd include it.  Sorry.

All in all, this was a worthy entry in the ongoing story of Psychoville, and a Halloween Special that I plan on making part of my seasonal viewing tradition.


  1. I think it's funnier if you're familiar with British pop culture. There were more jokes in there than I remember in the first series, but a lot of them would probably go right over the heads of Johnny Foreigner.

    David and Maureen are inspired creations. Their situation is so very clever that they could carry the show themselves.

    Although obviously inspired by That Film, the effects seen at the end of David and Maureen's story looked to me to be the same as those used in -- slight spoiler here -- Being Human, so perhaps they just reused them, as tends to happen with BBC productions.

  2. Yeah, I was pretty sure I was missing some of the jokes. That's what I get for living over here.

    Ah. I've not watched any Being Human. Could be just a lucky confluence of events then, to justify the effect. Works either way!

  3. Since you like Fringe I find it difficult to predict your tastes, but you should give Being Human a go. I ended up quite liking it.