The Ghost Tape Review
Production company – Qcode
As is said in my Magnus Archives review, there has been something of a glut of podcasts with “archives” or “tapes” in the title. Some are good, some not so much. That said, this series was something of a surprise for me. I really wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was. I had a nagging suspicion that there would be something that would make this series suck. It is produced by Qcode who do make very good podcasts indeed, and despite the premise sounding interesting, I was expecting an experience rather like biting into an apple and finding half a worm. Thankfully, my gut instinct isn’t always right (rarely in fact).
So what’s it all about then?
The series tells the story of Pvt. Tessa Dixon, a young female soldier. Her grandfather was well known in the army, but she soon finds out that her well known surname is something of a double edged sword. Following on from her grandfather’s recent death, Tessa suspects foul play. The official record states he committed suicide. Tessa believes he was murdered though, so she enlists in the army to try and investigate (as you do).
Episode 1 kicks off with Tessa being interviewed by the Army psychiatrist. This really drops you in at the deep end, which I love. Therefore, most of her story is told through flashbacks in these interviews. She is also pretty ragged in the old sanity department at this time, so her acting ability really shines.
She tells the story of how she found an old cassette tape. Apparently this was recorded by her grandfather during his tour in the Vietnam war, and kept secret since then. The tape seems to document a massacre by the US troops on a Vietnamese village. It’s unclear whether this is an officially sanctioned event, but it is clear that the troops have a rather cavalier attitude to committing war crimes, and the audio is harrowing. It is in scenes like this that the Qcode production value really shines. It really is like listening to a documentary. Amongst the chaos of conflict though, other voices can be heard. Other voices only heard by the person listening to the tape.
It soon becomes apparent that this tape is something more powerful than it first seems. Exuding an attraction like “The One Ring”, and many people want it for themselves. It also seems to have the ability to warp time (and in some cases reality itself). As the story develops and the horrors on the tape make themselves known, this strange phenomena affects more people. In particular, there’s a scene in episode 4 where Tessa’s grandmother tells the story of how the tape was made that seems remarkably real. It’s not only the origin story of the tape, but her painful origin story too. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was taken from actual accounts of events in Vietnam, and it is horrific. Espicially as it is overlaid with the sounds of that terrible massacre.
Is it any good?
The acting is top notch, and the sound design works really well. The characters are all believable and interesting, especially the more nefarious elements with the exception of the psychiatrist. I don’t know what it is about him, but he seems to have phoned in his performance somewhat. Corporal Wilson however turns from serious army top brass to frothy and foul mouthed insanity that would make the late R. Lee Ermey proud. I suspect that such is the shadow cast by Full Metal Jacket, that it would be weird not to include a character like that.
I’ve now listened to all 8 episodes twice in a week (well y’know, I’ve been busy). Seeing as you can do the whole series in about 4 hours it is perfect for a quick dose of strange, insane true horror. It never really lets up and much like listening to the tape in the series, time will seem to warp and you’ll reach the end it what seems like no time at all.
This excellent podcast is highly recommended by me. So much so that it’s jumped the queue on my release schedule, which is why you’re reading it today.
The only criticism I have is the amount of adverts. Yes this is a bit nit picky. Yes I know they have to get revenue from somewhere, but adverts in podcasts are a tricky thing to balance. I know that I’m a cheapskate and I should support podcasts on Patreon to get rid of the ads, but until these rambling paragraphs become my day job, it is what it is.
The only thing worse is including adverts in a manner that hides the fact it’s an advert. I forget which podcast it was, but in the middle of the episode, the actors would just start a conversation about some product that sponsored the show. It would catch me out every time. At least let me know that I need to skip forward 90 seconds, rather than wondering if its some weird fourth wall breaking bit of story or if it’s an actual advert. No doubt I’ll be reviewing it in the future though, so keep your eyes peeled for that
You know the drill by now, you can find The Ghost Tape here:
or wherever you get your podcasts.