Month: June 2022

Beware of the owl

Bridgewater review

Production company – Grim & Mild

Rating –

Bridgewater logo

I am currently revisiting this series after a long time. I’ve listened to so many podcasts in the meantime though, for the sake of this review I felt that a “refresher” was needed. Does this mean that the series isn’t memorable? Somewhat, but read on and I’ll explain in more detail (now that I can remember the story!)

So what’s it about?

Folklore lecturer Jeremy Bradshaw has built his reputation on depth of knowledge and extreme sceptical attitude. He teaches in his hometown, a sleepy backwater called Bridgewater. This is a place that has a somewhat notorious reputation though. The locals call it “The Bridgewater Triangle” owing to the number of strange phenomena and disappearances in the area. So I guess the term “sleepy backwater” isn’t such a good one eh?

During a lecture, one of the students starts asking about Jeremy’s father, the town sheriff, who had disappeared 30 years previously. Apparently a sheriff’s badge has recently been found in the area where he vanished, this is news to Jeremy who hasnt been informed of the discovery. Initially he suspects this to be some strange and cruel prank. When he sees the badge, it is like new, certainly not like something that should have been in a swamp for decades. And so the adventure begins.

As the clues are revealed and fitted together, they uncover strange pagan cults, ancient folklore, strange creatures and voices from beyond the grave. His friends either wittingly or unwittingly put themselves in great danger as they try to discover what really happened to his father all those years ago. As the story progresses, Jeremy has not only his faith, but his grip on reality tested.

Is it any good?

Yes. I listen to an awful lot of shows like this, that vary wildly in quality. Thankfully, this is one of the good ones. The voice acting is very good and the characters are all interesting and likeable (even the ones who aren’t supposed to be!)

The more eagle eared among you will recognise Vipin’s voice as that of Karan Soni, who also voices Jeet, the ever alert intern and superfan of Terry Carnation. Also appearing is Will Wheaton as (the quite frankly ridiculously named) Captain Haddock. I remember Wheaton as the fresh faced Wesley Crusher from Star Trek TNG. To be honest, if you didn’t tell me that he was in this I’d never have known.

Aside from the actors, this is a very good audio drama. It’s a nice twist on folk horror without trying too hard. The production values are high enough that there are no cringy sound effects or outdoor monologues that were obviously recorded indoors. Those things appear more often than you’d think and they are a real mood killer.

Some of the characters verge on the cliché. Not just Vipin who seems to be playing Jeet again, actually that should be the other way round, but I’m sure you understand. There is the skeptical lecturer with a dark past, the plucky assistant and the hard boiled ex-cop who has seen it all before. Despite this, they avoid scenery chewing too much and it won’t get in the way of your enjoyment too much (unlike the cast of The White Vault, for example).

Final thoughts

This is a good, solid audio drama. A good paranormal yarn set in the modern day with enough suspense to make sure you listen to “just one more”, before you realise you’ve binged the whole thing. Are there better shows out there? Of course, but there are a whole lot worse to be found. Not only that, but there are worse that regularly get recommended to people.

Do yourself a favour and subscribe. I think you’ll like it a lot.

You can find Bridgewater here:

https://www.grimandmild.com/bridgewater

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

No escape from Big Brother

Just quick announcement to let you all know that I’ve now got a Twitter account. I’ve had a Facebook page for a while, but now it seems I’m a twit as well. There won’t be very much different content on there as this is my primary outlet for inane ramblings, but should you be a completist then the links are either Here and Here, or you can click on the logos on my biography page.

Hopefully the whole thing is now all automatic too, so I dont have to remember to update everything (this post is also something of an experiment to see if it all works, wish me luck!) Technology is great, except when it isn’t.

Tomorrow will see a return to normality with a regular post. It’s a review of the rather good series Bridgewater, so see you then.

Corrido’s of power

Standoff review

Production Company – Imperative Entertainment

Rating –

Standoff Logo

This is yet another recommendation from a friend, thanks Matt (you were right!) I managed to get through this whole thing in two days. It would have been a whole lot less. With the current shenanigans in Westminster though, I’m spending almost as much time listening to political commentary as I am listening to podcasts. But I digress….

So what’s it about?

In 1974 the Huntsville Prison in Texas was the home of cocaine and heroin kingpin Federico Gomez Carrasco. After a dramatic shootout at a small town motel (following on from a previous prison break), he was incarcerated and sentenced. This was something that Carrasco was not prepared to accept however. With the help of some accomplices, he prepared once more to escape.

The group of inmates took hostages and holed up in the impenetrable prison library. Over the next 11 days Carrasco and the prison authorities negotiated for Carrasco to flee the country in an armoured car. Needless to say, despite Carrasco’s gang taking all eventualities into account, A1 things didn’t go according to plan.

Is it any good?

Absolutely. I’m becoming quite a fan of true crime podcasts, and this one really has a twist. Most series you hear will be told from the perspective of hindsight. The parties concerned will tell their stories in the usual fashion. What sets this apart from the rest though, is the sheer amount of recorded footage from the actual event. Carrasco allowed the hostages to use the phone to speak to their families, and he was on the phone to his attorney and the prison officials, and everything was recorded.

When being told a story, there is usually a disconnect from the raw emotion. Time, as they say, is a great healer. These events are no doubt still harrowing to recall, but the people concerned have no doubt told their stories many times and it shows (or whatever the audio equivalent of that is). The fact that a great portion of this is actual footage from the time really adds an emotional weight to the story. Most of the time they make small talk with their families and make plans for when this is over. The producers don’t shy away from playing the calls that truly convey the terror of the situation though. This is the unique thing about this series.

Federico Carrasco has become something of a folk hero apparently. There are stories here that will give him a kind of Robin Hood mystique. There are even parts of this series when you almost root for the plucky little Mexican, standing up to The Man™. As the series progresses though, these moments are fewer and fewer. Ultimately you accept he was a killer, and he wasn’t fussy about who he killed.

The episodes are broken up with Mexican “corrido’s” (see i didn’t spell the title wrong!). Theae are folk ballads from the time telling Carrasco’s story. They are plaintive and solemn, and I know just enough Spanish to get the gist of the lyrics, although they are explained by the narrator. These songs were being released almost daily as the siege went on, not to glamorise the events (although they certainly do), but more as a “news update” for the cantinas and Spanish radio stations. The musicians would listen to the news, write and record the songs and broadcast them. The more popular ones would get pressed to vinyl and released to the bars for their jukeboxes.

Final thoughts

I can’t recommend this series enough really. It was compelling and heartbreaking in almost equal measure. It’s 10 episodes that you’ll fly through in no time.

As I said previously there is always a part of society that will glamorise the criminal. They add some romance to the crimes, whilst glossing over the gorier elements of their past. There is not much chance of that here though. By the end the events have taken a very dark turn indeed, and there is no way you’ll forget the events of the final night.

You can get Standoff here:

https://cumuluspodcastnetwork.com/pods/standoff/

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Old red eyes is back

Haunted: The Audio Drama review

Production Company – Impala Films

Rating –

Haunted: The Aduio Drama logo

This was one of those podcasts thrown up by the all powerful algorithms that seemingly make most of our decisions for us these days. As I’ve said before, sometimes they give you gold, other times, not so much. So is this gold or something more unsavoury? Well, I’m not going to tell you in the opening paragraph am I? You’ll have to read on find out.

So what’s it about?

Abigail Corbyn, a young paranormal podcaster with an excess of eagerness, searches out the reclusive James Hunter, an alcoholic former parapsychologist who is doing his best (and generally succeeding) to avoid the rest of humanity. Reluctantly he agrees to help Abigail try to solve a mysterious series of murders in the small town where she lives.

Soon they piece together a very strange tale indeed. One that involves seemingly normal people going on the aforementioned murderous rampages, ancient symbols and mind control. Season two kicks off with a spooky appearance of a ghost child which may or may not tie in to the events in season 1. This sounds like quite the plot stew, and in some ways it is. There are certainly many threads to weave here and for the most part they work. There are some times though, where things that at first mention seem like they will be important, end up being glossed over. The series isn’t over yet, so there may well be some overarching scheme here that I can’t possibly know about. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Is it any good?

Well, yes and no. It really reminds me of 1970s British radio dramas. It seems very low budget and the voice acting isn’t great. Sometimes it’s not even good, but that adds to the nostalgic charm. If you took out the references to the internet and mobile phones, then it could easily pass for a very old show indeed. This is something of a double edged sword really, and I’m not sure if this style is intentional or not. It may be because of budget constraints (as it was in the 70s) or a definite and deliberate homage.

I also can’t overlook the similarity of James Hunter and that other legendary curmudgeon of the paranormal, Jonathan Sims, head archivist at The Magnus Archives. It may just be an accent thing, but I can’t get it out of my head. There is also a rather obvious (to me at least) similarity between this series and Doctor Who. An older, cynical male knowitall is accompanied by a younger, naive female on a very dangerous mission against an unknown enemy. I would go so far as to compare Abigail to Sophie Aldred’s character “Ace” from the Sylvester McCoy era of Doctor Who. You, however may disagree.

Final thoughts

Whether you’ll like this or not depends on a few things. If you enjoy the cosy, nostalgic charm of 1970s radio dramas and Nigel Kneale TV shows then you’ll like this a lot. If you grew up with modern, slick storytelling high production values then it will annoy you no end. I sit entirely in the former camp, and even then there are little parts that I find irritating. I am prepared to gloss over these niggles though and I’m slogging on regardless.

This is a shame, because the story itself is very good. The dialogue leans towards the cliché, especially in the more emotionally charged moments. And some of the supporting voice cast is rather poor. They also do that thing of having an adult woman do a child’s voice. Again, maybe this is down to budget constraints, but everytime I hear this it reminds me more of kids TV shows like Horrid Henry rather than The Simpsons. While an adult may well have the vocal range to do it, the actual mannerisms are all wrong. I realise that I have spent nearly a whole paragraph criticising a tiny part of one episode, but I think it’s justified.

As I go back through this post editing and adding, A thought has just struck me. I said that it is like a 1970s British radio drama, but it isnt. This series is like an early 1980s BBC kids tv show. Again you have the same nostalgia factor, as people old enough to remember one, will remember the other. It isn’t “horrific” enough to be the former, but it is exciting enough to be the latter. This won’t change my rating, but I include here for added clarity.

I gave this a three brain rating purely for the nostalgia factor. It was dangerously close to scoring lower. I’m sure there will be some who think I’m an idiot for scoring this so low, and some who think I’m an idiot for scoring it so high. It is what it is, give it a go. It’s not like you pay for it or anything.

You can get Haunted: An Audio Drama here:

https://www.cyberpunkstudios.co.uk/haunted

Or wherever you get your podcasts

Taking the normal out of paranormal

Occultaria Of Albion review

Rating –

The Occultaria Of Albion logo

I heard about this very recently on one of the many facebook pages I frequent. I duly subscribed, as I always do when a new podcast crosses my path. I’d planned to put it off for a while, I’ve got a few new series on the go and I’m trying to review those first. I’m also trying to avoid those pesky “queue jumpers” that inevitably appear from time to time. Every time I opened my list of podcasts though, I’d see this one calling out. This morning I finally gave in and took the plunge into the strange world of the Occultaria Of Albion.

So what’s it about?

The Occultaria Of Albion is a strange beast. At first glance (and indeed at the first episode), it appears to be one of the many folklore podcasts that are springing up like fairy rings. But scratch below the surface and you find something very interesting indeed.

The host and head archivist Richard Daniels investigates a different subject every episode, from ghosts to cryptids and UFO sightings. The episodes are split between retellings of traditional stories and interviews with eyewitnesses.

The first episode is a very low-fi release, recorded on what sounds like a mobile phone or cheap microphone. This isn’t a bad thing in this case however as I imagine him sitting in a shed that smells of creosote talking into a strange recording device. It reminds me a lot of the old Oliver Postgate animations, which were also created in a shed that no doubt smelled of creosote.

Is it any good?

After the first episode or two I wasn’t sure if I’d go the distance with this. This seems like a very low budget affair and as such the voice acting isn’t always up to scratch. There are a few occasions where you can almost see the person reading off a bit of paper. I can forgive that though because the mythology and the whole aesthetic is so good.

I’m glad I did stick with it though, because every episode gets better in terms of content.

There are a lot of genuinely funny moments and Richard Daniels is a very talented writer and host. His wit shines through any production shortcomings. Don’t think that this is just a purely comedic exercise though. There is a lot of folkloric and horror knowledge here that gets parodied very well. This is very much like Les Dawson playing the piano. You have to be very talented and knowledgeable to make something seem so “amateur”. (Please don’t take that the wrong way!)

This is also another one of those podcasts that has me wondering if it is entirely fictional or if some of the stuff presented is actually worth googling (at the risk of being caught out). As I have said previously, I don’t mind that at all. And I have to resist the urge to look up any film or book that gets mentioned.

Final thoughts

From the analogue bleeps of the little interludes, to the very 70s hauntological look of the OoA releases on their website (they look like releases by Ghost Box or The Belbury Poly) there is a lot to love here, especially if you’re into that sort of thing. There’s a lot to love even if you’re not. Another hauntological note here is the similarity of the yoga teacher character to the legend of the Radiophonic workshop Delia Derbyshire. I’m not sure if this was an intentional impression or not, but it made me smile.

This is well worth your time to listen to. Each episode is different enough to seem fresh. I assume this is because the release schedule is somewhat “sedate”. Although as I write this, I’m awaiting the imminent release of the new episode at the end of the week. I should also point out that I’ve listened to the whole back catalogue of episodes in a day, well about 4 hours truth be told.

As I said previously, Richard Daniels is a very talented writer and I can’t help but wonder if this series would be improved if it was just him retelling these stories. The excerpt from a talk that he gave on the Halloween episode was amazing, and I could really listen to that stuff all day. I’m prepared to overlook the poor voice talent, but I’m not sure if you would be.

You may wonder when then, after my seemingly relentless nitpicking of the acting, why I gave this a five brain rating. I think in this case it is deserved because it is so bloody good. That’s the only thing that there isn’t to like, and even then the actual script is very good. So there. It’s my blog and I’m in charge!

You can get The Occultaria Of Albion here:

https://redcircle.com/shows/occultariaofalbion

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

***NOTE***

This is possibly the only podcast I’ve found that doesn’t really have it’s own webpage. The official TOoA site just recommends you search for the podcast, and the link I provided above seems to have links for all possible podcatchers.

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