Month: October 2022

This ol’ Blumhouse

Production company – Grim & Mild/ Blumhouse

Rating –

This was probably my first introduction to Aaron Mahnke podcasts when the first series came out two years ago. Almost immediately though, I also found Haunted Road, and realised that there were some pretty big shows in the Grim & Mild camp. Series two was last year, and season 3 is scheduled for this year. It’ll be interesting to see where they go. The title of this series is also apt for this time of year, so it gets slotted in nicely here.

So what’s it about?

13 Days Of Halloween is a horror anthology podcast, with each season being completely different to the last so I think to make life easier, I’ll break this up into two parts.

Season 1 is an Amicus style portmanteau story that sees a voiceless stranger (possibly meant to be you, the listener?) “You” arrive at the sprawling and spooky Hawthorne Manor. You are met at the gate by The Caretaker, played by the outstanding Keegan-Michael Key. A talented actor, you may recognise him from the sketch show Key and Peele, or from his film roles. The caretaker guides you round the house where you meet the residents. Each episode takes place in a different room. Are the people you meet there real, or ghosts, or figments of your imagination?

The story unfolds like a puzzle as the motivation of the caretaker becomes apparent. But what will be the outcome? The many threads of the present weave with the many elements of backstory to create a very expansive universe and a gripping story indeed.

Season 2 takes a different path. This is more like a regular horror series. The main character now has a voice, and the setting has changed (and expanded) to encompass a whole town. In this case, the wonderfully named Direbrook, a sleepy fishing village in New England.

This has more of a folk horror/Lovecraftian feel, the quaintness of the setting offset somewhat by the strange greetings used by the locals and the veiled warnings to the main character. I said this was more folk horror, and like Midommar or The Wicker man, you have a feeling early on that there will be a sinister climax to it all.

A nameless woman regains consciousness on a beach, and is found by an older woman and local, known as “Mother”. As the series progresses, this duo explore the town and amongst the standalone stories (as in series 1) are clues that reveal the identity and reason for the unnamed woman to be here. The Lovecraftian elements develop quite early on, with similarities to stories like The Shadow Over Insmouth, and even films like In The Mouth Of Madness.

Is it any good?

Season 1 was very good in its own way. As I said earlier, it is reminiscent of the 70s movies by Amicus, in particular it reminds me of the film Asylum. Keegan Michael-Key is his usual eccentric self, and seems to be channeling Tim Curry from Clue. This in itself is no bad thing, although it does grate a bit during the higher camp moments.

Season 2 is certainly bigger, although maybe not better. As I said, the protagonist now has a voice. This is something that seems a tad redundant, because she hardly ever says a word. As in season 1, the protagonist is guided through the story, this time by the mysterious “Mother”.

I’m currently listening to this season again, because despite finishing it relatively recently, I can’t actually remember anything about it past episode 2. I think that says a lot about this show, which is a shame.

Final thoughts

This is something of a mixed bag. Having the production clout of Blumhouse and Grim & Mild sets this head and shoulders above lower budget productions, but ultimately this is a show that leaves me wanting. On paper this should be my ultimate podcast, one that would have my “brain” rating increase to 6 or 7, but it misses the mark somehow.

Now that season 3 is almost halfway through, I’ll give it a go. Hopefully third time’s a charm.

You can get 13 days of Halloween here:

https://www.grimandmild.com/13days

Or wherever you get your podcasts

Sleep Tight

Haunted review

Production company – Chalk and Blade/Panoply

Rating –

Just a quick note before I begin. This review has lain half written for a long time, hence the opening paragraph below. This week though, Danny has announced the release of the sequel to The Battersea Poltergeist. This will be starting the day after this post is published, so I figure it’s a rather apt time to get this thing finished. I guess I’m no longer a completionist, at least until the end of the month anyway!

Consider me a completionist. I’ve now completed the Danny Robins trilogy of podcasts. I’d actually looked for this one back when I first heard The Battersea Poltergeist and couldn’t find it. Probably because I thought it was also released by the BBC. Thanks to a Facebook post, I found it and eagerly downloaded the whole series, ready to binge.

So what’s it about?

In a similar vein to the previously reviewed Uncanny, each episode features a different true story of ghosts and hauntings. People contact the show and get to tell their own creepy stories of the paranormal.

As with Uncanny, these aren’t run of the mill cliché type ghost stories. The stories told here are next level in the creepiness department. And the tension really ratchets up as the series progresses. The final story of the series is truly terrifying, and one that wouldn’t really be matched until halfway through Uncanny.

This series also features legendary Parapsychologist Ciarán O’Keeffe, a somewhat stabilising influence, as he has been since trying to lend legitimacy to the TV series Most Haunted. His critical mind usually finds some possible mundane explanation, and my personal thoughts on this aren’t really relevant. I’m not a Parapsychologist, so what do I know! His take on things though is always interesting, particularly his comments on false memories. I also just realised I’d always spelled his name wrong! I’ve now corrected this here, and in the Uncanny review. Sorry Ciarán!

Is it any good?

Absolutely. Danny Robins knows how to make a good podcast. His genuine amazement at the stories is infectious and really adds to the atmosphere. He also walks the fine line between believer and skeptic with great skill.

The main difference between this show and Uncanny is the lack of audience interaction, whereas Uncanny had lots of listeners contacting the show with extra information about the cases. This is probably because it was a totally new show and (please forgive me if I’m wrong), but Danny Robins was a rather unknown quantity when this podcast was released. It also means he has to trawl through library records to research the cases rather than crowd source it.

Final thoughts

Listening to this series after hearing Danny’s more recent work is like discovering the early albums of a favourite band. You can hear all of the familiar elements you know and love, but the production is not quite as polished and there is more of an “attitude” that changes as the band gets more established. But enough of the tenuous music analogies. This is another great podcast from Danny Robins, and as I’ve said before, I can’t wait to hear what’s coming up next. His involvement in a series is enough for me to immediately subscribe.

In the interest of getting my damn facts straight, I decided to listen to this series again. So I did. The whole thing in a day. It’s still as creepy as it was the first time I listened. If that’s not recommendation enough, then I don’t know what is.

You can listen to Haunted here:

https://www.dannyrobins.com/haunted

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

The Japanese Sandmen

The Good Friends Of Jackson Elias review

Rating –

good friends of jackson elias logo

For a lot of people, this will be something of a “marmite” review, but I’m an unashamed geek so you’ll just have to indulge me. I’ve been a fan of the roleplaying game “Call Of Cthulhu” since the mid 90’s. Despite that, the lack of a proper gaming group meant I’d only run a few games and that was 20 or so years ago. Call it a midlife crisis if you will, but a year or two back I decided I wanted to get back into it, but I had no idea really how to play anymore. I found this podcast as a recommendation on a Facebook group, and I took the trip to the Dreamlands to meet Scott, Matt and Paul.

So what’s it about

The Good Friends Of Jackson Elias is “a regular podcast about Call Of Cthulhu, horror films, and horror gaming in general”. Even the non Lovecraftian subjects usually end up being tied back into the game in one way or another. I mean, that is the subject of the podcast after all.

The hosts, Scott Dorward, Matt Sanderson and Paul Fricker all write for Chaosium, the company that produces Call Of Cthulhu (from here on out referred to as CoC to save my carpal tunnels), and really, if they don’t know something then it’s not really worth knowing.

Despite this, don’t for one moment think there’s nothing here to enjoy if you aren’t partial to rolling d100 for SAN. The episodes vary from CoC specifics to reviews of horror fiction and films or even tips for writing (for CoC, but easily transferred to other genres). This is truly a treasure trove (or more appropriately an arcane tome of forbidden knowledge) for anything horror related.

Is it any good?

This is easily the best Lovecraftian podcast out there, and not just if you’re into gaming. There is a wealth of knowledge here, and if you have a passing interest in the works of The Old Man Of Providence, then there’ll be something to enjoy. There are plenty of episodes (as I write this, they are on episode 282!) so feel free to pick and choose as you wish. Even if you have some aversion to numbered plastic polyhedra, then you will enjoy the film reviews, and the analyses of stories are in the vein of A Podcast To The Curious (and equally as good).

Final thoughts

It’s come a long way from recording in Paul’s shed and drinking white russians. At first the improvements were instantly noticeable. New mics made everything clearer (yes, I remember the campaigns for new mics, and the teething problems getting them to work!) Since then though, the podcast just seems to have spread its tentacles and inexorably slithered from the aforementioned shed to become the leading podcast in the field.

It’s hard to overstate how much this podcast has benefitted me over the years. Strangely in ways mostly unrelated to gaming. I’ve discovered new authors, new podcasts, films and music. Thanks to Scott, I’ve also started doing the October horror film challenge (currently my second year doing that). Watching one horror film a day for every day in October is a tough task, not because they are horror films, but because the object is to watch ones you haven’t seen before. I tend to save up recommendations over the year just for this challenge. Truth be told, it’s also why I’m posting this today.

This is one of my favourite podcasts, and I heartily recommend you subscribe immediately, or I’ll ask the guys to sing to you!

You can get The Good Friends Of Jackson Elias here:

https://blasphemoustomes.com

Or wherever you get your podcasts 

Buddha, Coulda, Shoulda

The Subjective Truth review

Production company – Good Pointe

Rating –

The Subjective Truth logo

I found this through the other Good Pointe show Two Flat Earthers Kidnap A Freemason. Honestly, I was expecting something similar. This was no light-hearted satire though, but a decidedly darker (though no less entertaining) drama. So join me as we head off in search of Buddha Kline.

So what’s it about?

Amateur treasure hunter team Buddha Kline and his wife Amy are on the trail of the legendary Fenn Treasure. They get split up and Amy makes it back, but Buddha has vanished.

The series follows podcaster and journalist Graham Anderson as she tracks the ever cooling case. She meets Buddha’s family and friends, and a whole cast of strange characters along the way.

Pretty soon the strange phenomena that seem to follow the legendary treasure and the town of Taos, New Mexico start to appear and things get very weird indeed.

Is it any good?

It’s great. Earlier on in the series, I was giving some serious thought to scoring it lower. I think it dropped to about a three brain rating at one point and it was in danger of making it on to my end of year “also ran” list. Ultimately, it ended up captivating me though. The acting isn’t great across the board, but really, that didn’t matter. It’s very easy to get fully absorbed into the story and any niggles are soon forgotten.

As I said in the intro, seeing as this is a Good Pointe podcast, I was expecting something else (this was rather presumptuous of me, I’ve only listened to one other of their shows). This series is more like the alternate reality mindf*ck of the excellent PRA shows Rabbits or Tanis. The world building is amazing, and the adverts are so well observed that they could easily exist.

As the series progresses, little nuggets of existing urban legends, folklore and creepypasta are thrown in. These are sometimes so subtle in the main story arc that it’s almost “blink and you’ll miss it”. I loved the inclusion of the Three Kings ritual and the Polybius arcade machine in particular, even though the latter was a touch reminiscent of the Rabbits podcast.

There are also later “bonus episodes” that fill out the mythos and give occasional comic relief (whether intentionally or not). Sorry, but the mattress phone call was funny no matter what you say!

This is also one podcast that could have carried the odd trigger warning here and there (I can’t believe I just wrote that), trigger warnings tend to bring me out in hives. The episode that dealt with the “reboots” in depth was heartbreaking. Coming from someone with skin thicker than a rhino with psoriasis, that’s really saying something.

There’s also some pathos here as the series reaches its climax. Graham’s past catches up with her somewhat and what she experiences is also rather harrowing, it’s also a great portrayal of how people in the public eye get treated (or so we’re told). It’s the sections like these that set it apart from the aforementioned PRA podcasts and set this one on a true path of its own.

Final thoughts

The problem with my listening habits is that because I’m working my day job and listening at the same time, I can miss certain details. That’s entirely my fault. This series is one that I’ll be returning to immediately for another run through. I think there’s a very important point I may have missed at the end that was a big twist. It won’t affect the score any. It can’t go higher than a five brain rating!

Are there better podcasts out there? Yes. But don’t let that put you off. This is an outstanding series I’ve come to love, and I’m almost ashamed of myself for almost writing it off after the first two episodes. Do yourself a favour and subscribe immediately. You won’t be disappointed.

You can get The Subjective Truth here:

https://thesubjectivetruth.libsyn.com/

Or wherever you get your podcasts

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