Tag: Drama (Page 1 of 3)

And the winner is!

Trophy pic

December 2nd marked the 1st anniversary of me launching this blog. In a rather preemptive strike on the traditional end of year lists that will invariably clog up all your timelines in a few weeks, I thought I’d get in with my rather unofficial awards celebrating the best (in my opinion) podcasts you can get. So, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the first annual podcastgeek awards ceremony!

Some shows I will have reviewed, and I’ll be adding links to the reviews where available. Others will be reviewed as soon as I get round to it. Each category will have a shortlist of five entries in no special order apart from how they spring to mind. At the end of each shortlist we will have the winners. I hope you have the patience to read all the way through. It shouldn’t take too long!

Now, there may well be some glaring omissions, especially if you’ve been following this blog for a while, but seeing as this will be an annual event, there is always next year, and I promise no series will win more than once.

The drinks are flowing here at the podcastgeek enormodome and the guests are waiting with baited breath to see who takes the gongs home. So without further ado, I’ll roll out the red carpet as the spotlights rake the night sky, put on my best bib and tucker and heap praise on a multitude of shows. DRUMROLL PLEASE!

Best fiction podcast

This was a tough one, because the entire shortlist is excellent, ultimately though, the result will come as no surprise to anyone who’s read my reviews.

The winner is THE MAGNUS ARCHIVES!

Magnus Archives Logo

Best true crime podcast

  • Hunting Warhead
  • The Lazarus Heist
  • Death In Ice Valley
  • Deep Cover
  • The World’s Greatest Con

Another tough one. Another 5 incredible shows, but there’s only one winner tonight. This podcast won just for the fact that there is some resolution to the crimes, and the fact that there are no real trigger warnings.

The winner is THE WORLD’S GREATEST CON!

World's Greatest Con logo

Best gaming/geek culture podcast

I had originally intended to spend a month or so only reviewing this rather niche area of the podcastverse, but I didn’t want to lose either of my regular subscribers, so I decided against it. Anyway, these are five very worthy podcasts, but for the sheer range of subject matter there can be only one (as the highlander would say).

The winner is HYPNOGORIA.

Hypnogoria Logo

Best science podcast

Originally I avoided science podcasts, thinking they would be stuffy and boring (despite having an interest in science). How wrong I was. The podcasts here are all very accessible and very entertaining.

The winner is BIG PICTURE SCIENCE.

Big Picture Science logo

Best comedy podcast

Over the years, I have listened to plenty of “comedy” podcasts that are as funny as standing on a plug. The shortlist here though are all very, very funny indeed. That said, in much the same way the The Magnus Archives was a rather predictable win, so is this. This one is a very sweary win “fae Dougie, Lee and John the dug”.

The winner is A SCOTTISH PODCAST.

A Scottish Podcast logo

Best paranormal/folklore podcast

I could have happily had four of Danny Robins’ podcasts and one other to make up the numbers, but that wouldn’t be fair, especially with so many interesting paranormal and folklore podcasts out there. The winner of this category really takes top spot, like hypnogoria, for the sheer breadth of subject matter. This really is a great series.

The winner is BONE AND SICKLE.

Bone And Sickle logo

Best factual podcast

Possibly the hardest category to judge, due to the catch-all nature of the title. Again, the shortlist entries are all worthy of your time, and I recommend you check them all out. The contrarian in me has decided though that it has to be heroic.

The winner is HOW TO BURN A MILLION QUID.

How To Burn A MIllion Quid logo

Phew, that’s a lot of podcasts isn’t it? And I’ve obviously done a load of listening. That is only a small selection of the podcasts that I’ve pumped into my brain over the last few years. If the best idea is to “write about what you know”, you can see why I started writing about podcasts can’t you?

“Ha! Mr podcastgeek” I hear you scoff. “Why don’t you get a life?”

In response I will click my fingers and out of the shadows a group of no-necked toughs in suits will have these hecklers ejected from the venue.

We have had some great shows mentioned this year, and despite missing out on a win, I really need to give an honourable mention to The Good Friends Of Jackson Elias. When I posted my review of that podcast, it had so many shares and comments, it is BY FAR the most popular post I’ve written. So thank you to all the Call Of Cthulhu and Chaosium fans who took the time to help grow my blog. It is greatly appreciated.

Compact and bijou Mostyn

Tiny Terrors review

Production company – Rusty Quill

Rating –

tiny terrors logo

Almost a year go now, my very first review was of The Magnus Archives. This is still possibly my all time favourite podcast. At the time, I bemoaned the fact that it had spawned a multitude of imitators of varying quality. I stand by that opinion (mainly because it’s still true). But, you may ask, what does that have to do with this? Are these terrors of which you speak tiny by name and nature, or are they genuinely the stuff of nightmares? Well, read on and I’ll tell you.

So what’s it about?

The Tiny Terrors exchange is an swap shop for scary stories rather similar in tone to the Creepypasta website. Its origins hark back to the pre-internet days when writers would swap short stories by post. This was a sort of secret club. You could only join by being recommended by a writer already in the club, and every so often you would receive a story through the post to enjoy and review. In the digital age, and with the dawn of search engines, this secrecy was lost somewhat, although the exclusivity, and therefore quality was retained.

In each episode of the podcast, the employees of the exchange read a story and record it on tape. Running parallel to these recordings of weird fiction are stirrings of more sinister machinations just out of sight of the main plot, and soon the reality of the characters starts getting very strange indeed.

Is it any good?

I really like this one. It’s my favourite Magnus-alike series, and the side plot is reminiscent of The Storage Papers. Although, comparing it to either of these podcasts directly is a bit of a cop out, it’s more than capable of standing up on its own two feet.

Cole Weavers (I can spell his name, even if the Rusty Quill website can’t!) has done a stirling job with the writing. The characters are very likable and thanks to the voice cast, very believable. Regarding the acting, for the most part, it is great, and I love to hear familiar voices in there too. The individual stories are also very well written indeed. There are some incredibly strange nuggets of weird fiction to enjoy, so much so that I would rate this a five even if it was a straight anthology horror series.

Final thoughts

As I said, there are many, many podcasts out there now with a very similar premise. Tiny Terrors however, wears its Magnus Archives badge with pride. Not only is it by Rusty Quill, and as I said, there are a few familiar voices, even Jonathan Sims makes an appearance doing a very good Garth Marenghi impression, intentional or not.

I’ll be honest, despite me praising Rusty Quill to everyone, not all their podcasts appeal to me. In fact I’ve heard trailers to some that I have deliberately avoided. I guess this is only to be expected. Despite having a high success rate entertaining this podcast addict, I suppose 100% is too much to expect. You really should check this one out as soon as you can.

You can get Tiny Terrors here:

https://rustyquill.com/show/tiny-terrors/

Or wherever you get your podcasts 

Are you sitting comfortably?

Shadows At The Door review

Rating –

Shadows At The Door logo

As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, I’m a massive fan of David Ault. He’s a great voice talent who has the uncanny knack of cropping up in a diverse range of podcasts, but whose appearance is always a guarantee of quality. His deadpan delivery is instantly recognisable, and I’m not ashamed that whenever he crops up in a show, there’s a little part of me that goes “yes”. Apart from raising the standard of other people’s work (there is one podcast that springs to mind that got a whole extra “brain” in my ratings just because he was in it), he also has this series. Now that I’ve finished with the fawning, read on and I promise I’ll try to keep the hyperbole to a minimum.

So what’s it about?

Shadows At The Door is an anthology podcast of ghost stories and creepy fiction by David Ault and Mark Nixon. In fact, the first episode is a very Jamesian, and deliciously chilling ghost story written by Mark Nixon himself. This isn’t the only episode penned my Mr. Nixon, but it was a brilliant way to start proceedings.

Whilst I have already given Mr. Ault a good deal of wordcount already, I don’t want to leave Mark Nixon out. He has quite a body of work as a writer for the (now legendary) NoSleep podcast, and even appeared as M.R. James on The Writers Mythos. This is a podcast I must admit I hadn’t heard of before, but I’ve duly subscribed and will be checking out asap.

After the actual reading, Mark and David go back over the story and discuss the themes and influences. This places it in a rather similar vein to A Podcast To The Curious (although that particular show doesn’t feature a full reading of James’ stories). It’s also slightly more light-hearted than the more scholarly Podcast To The Curious. This is a chance to lighten the mood here, as the darkness of the stories gives way to wordplay and humour.

Talking of humour, most of the recent (albeit sparse) episodes have been “drunk stories” told at Halloween and Christmas etc. Hearing David Ault trying to tell a story after drinking an inordinate number of shots is surprisingly funny, and way more entertaining than the similar TV shows. I suspect his is because David and Mark are genuinely wittier than the panel show fodder who usually lend their names to such light entertainment dross.

Is it any good?

I like this show a lot. Recently it does seem to have gone rather quiet over there though, which is a shame. Although I’m sure that this podcast is far from the main source of income for these two, so I’ll just await each new episode like a child hoping to get a full size snickers in his trick or treat bucket.

The stories, while very much genre specific are varied enough to be engaging, and even though some of these are tales you will no doubt have heard many times, you really can’t beat a good storyteller to breathe new life into a well known yarn.

Final thoughts

If you’re a fan of classic ghost stories, or indeed modern stories written in a classic style then this is for you. David Ault is second to none as a voice actor, and Mark Nixon is a very talented writer. They make a great team, and apart from the lack of output by these two, there isn’t anything I can fault here.

You really need to check this podcast out as soon as you can.

You can get Shadows At The Door here:

https://shadowsatthedoor.com/

Or wherever you get your podcasts 

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

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

Judging a book by its cover

Dark Woods review

Production company – Wolf Entertainment

Rating –

Dark Woods logo

This was another one of those series that cropped up thanks to the all knowing algorithms that run our lives now. To be honest, I subscribed based on the artwork alone. I’ve bought albums like that, I’ve bought books like that. Why not subscribe to podcasts like that too?

So what’s it about?

Dark Woods is a thrilling eight part drama set in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park in California. According to the intro, this is a fictionalised story based on real problems faced by the national parks in America. A chilling prospect indeed.

Fish And Game Warden Mark Ellis’ life is thrown into disarray after the disappearance and death of his young aide Chelsea Brewer. After going missing, her body is subsequently found by hikers  at the bottom of a ravine. Despite appearing to be an accident, and therefore an open and shut case, Mark launches an investigation.  After the autopsy it seems that she had been poisoned before she fell to her death.

Mark teams up with teacher’s assistant Miguel, a guy who has been charting the population of Fishers (a ferret-like animal) who has uncovered that these animals have also been poisoned. These two unlikely allies’ investigation contradicts police procedure and the two find themselves in a very serious situation indeed.

With all this going on, there is also the looming threat of a company wanting to buy large swathes of the park for mining. The town councillor is reluctant to go ahead with talks, but the townspeople are tempted by the prospect of money and jobs.

Is it any good?

It is outstanding. I listen to a lot of audio dramas, as my regular followers will know. Many such shows like to claim a “cinematic experience”. This one truly is though. The acting is OUTSTANDING. There really isn’t one weak link in the cast here. There is some genuine emotion in the story that is given real gravity by the cast.

While the characters themselves are nothing new, there’s the good guy on the brink of a breakdown, the plucky sidekick, the sneaky businessman and the sceptical police chief, they are all expertly played and nothing feels cheesy or clichéd.

Final thoughts

This series has quickly flown into my top 10 list for the year. Heck, it’s quite possibly in my all time top 10. I can’t really fault anything here. There’s no dodgy sound effects or wooden acting. The story is very well written and perfectly paced.

Eight 45 minute (or thereabouts) episodes seem to be the golden ratio for a drama podcast. Each episode is long enough that you don’t feel rushed, and the fact there’s only eight means that if you’re like me you can happily binge the whole thing in a day and not burn your ears (and concentration) out.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to start the whole series again.

You can get Dark woods here:

https://wolfentertainment.com/podcast/darkwoods/

Or wherever you get your podcasts

Bloody Hell Harold

The Battersea Poltergeist review

Production company – BBC

Rating –

Battersea Poltergeist logo

I know I’ve already reviewed Uncanny, but this was my introduction to the brilliant Danny Robins. It cropped up in the recommendations in BBC sounds and it sounded interesting, so I gave it a go. As soon as the first episode started, I knew this was something special and I knew I was going to love it.

So what’s it about?

Everyone has heard of the film Poltergeist. Fewer people have heard of the real life case of The Enfield Poltergeist. Even fewer have heard of The Battersea Poltergeist. This is unfortunate, the Battersea case was somewhat overshadowed by the more infamous events at Enfield. While Enfield was certainly interesting, Battersea was equally terrifying and equally unexplainable. It was also nearly 20 years before Enfield.

This is probably the reason why it’s almost forgotten. By the 1970s, Britain was paranormal crazy. There were books, TV shows and films all cashing in, but in the post war society of the 50s there was a more pragmatic or sceptical approach to such claims.

In 1956, 15 year old Shirley Hitchings and her family started experiencing strange phenomena that would last an incredible 12 years. I say incredible, because the events at Enfield only lasted a few months. The case starts innocuously enough, as poltergeist cases usually do. Shirley found a silver key on her pillow, one that didn’t fit any locks in the house. Soon the whole family is being constantly terrorised, and the playful nature of the early events is gone.

The spirit (known as Donald) was responsible for moving furniture, throwing things and even starting a fire in the house. As the series progresses, it’s also heavily hinted that it was responsible for the death of Shirley’s Grandmother.

The podcast is a dramatisation of the events in question, interspersed with narration by Danny Robins. It follows the borderline obsessive investigation of the case by Harold Chibbett, played by the incredible Toby Jones. Dafne Keen, who has a long list of credits for someone so young, plays Shirley.

Is it any good?

Anything with Toby Jones is going to be excellent. I don’t think he’s done anything that was sub par. Also, anything by Danny Robins seems to be well worth your time too. As you’ll no doubt remember from my earlier review, I’m something of a fanboy.

Danny Robins actually has boxes of Chibbetts’ original case files and notes, and this is the basis of the series. During the course of the series Danny is holed up in his shed, surrounded by all the papers, and just like Chibbett decades before, the obsession is somewhat contagious. At one point Danny himself complains that his family are missing him due to the time he spends poring over the evidence.

The production values are high enough that you really get an immersive experience, and all the actors are doing an amazing job. The cast features lots of familiar voices, not just Jones’ and there is as much tension here as any good TV show or film. Actually there is more tension here, mainly because there aren’t any good TV shows or films being made. It seems that if you want a genuinely creepy experience nowadays, then you need to look towards podcasts and radio shows.

As well as the horror of the events, there is a real pathos here as well. There are a lot of people living in the house, and all the family members are put under an immense amount of stress. This is also very well portrayed by the cast, as is their suspicion of Harold when he first starts investigating. Poor Harold has to not only figure out exactly how to try and find out about the spirit, but he also has to try and gain the trust of some of the family.

Final thoughts

As with all BBC productions, it’s a joy to listen to. As is the case by now, Danny Robins’ excitement is contagious, as is his disbelief at the phenomena that occur.

If you’re interested in ghost stories, then you’ll love it. There is nothing not to like here. This is a great investigation into a little known (or rather, little known when this was originally released) case of poltergeist activity.

You can get The Battersea Poltergeist here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0940193

Or wherever you get your podcasts

Lost Dreams

Lost Hills Review

Production Company – Pushkin Industries

Rating –

Lost Hills logo

This is a rather awkward series to rate. Hopefully during the course of this review I’ll clarify my decision for the rather low score you see at the top of the post, particularly if you’ve just started listening to this series before reading this. As with most podcasts, I’ll hear a trailer on a different series and decide to check it out. This one caught my eye (ears?) with its exciting and harrowing plot. I subscribed immediately.

So what’s it about?

Lost hills is a true crime podcast. Each series follows a different case, but the locale is similar. In the case of this series, it’s sunny Malibu in California.

Series 1 follows the case of a shooting at a campsite in Malibu Creek State Park. Campers are awoken in the middle of the night to loud gunshots. A father has been shot in his tent as he slept next to his young daughters. The children were unharmed. The police arrest Anthony Rauda, a man already known to the police, and something of a loner and a recluse who lived in the woods. As the investigation gains publicity, it soon becomes known that there had been attempted shootings going on for months beforehand. Were they connected? Did they get the right man, or was he a scapegoat?

This is a long and complex case with severe failings on the side of law enforcement. There will be parts of the story that will have you literally shaking your head in disbelief at the failings to protect the public. I also can’t help but notice the spirit of Making A Murderer early on in the series. It seems to be weighted in favour of innocence, at least early on.

Series 2 follows the case of a tragedy at sea. Fred Roehler, his wife Verna, and their young son Doug were yachting off the Malibu coast when the boat capsized and Verna and Doug lost their lives. Fred was the only survivor and only witness. At first, he’s devastated. He’s lost most of his family in a tragic accident.

As the investigation develops though, skeletons from Fred’s past start to surface. Death seems to follow him around, particularly with regards to wives. Is he the charming, loving husband that everyone thinks? Or is there a darker side. One that’s hidden from the public?

Something that becomes apparent, particularly in season two, is that despite the multi million pound houses and exclusivity of Malibu now, in the 1970s it was a somewhat seedy area. Its popularity with celebrities came from its anonymity and peace. Somewhere away from paparazzi and prying eyes.

Is it any good?

Yes and no. This is the reason for my low score. The first series was brilliant. A gripping story and real emotion. It was a harrowing story that would be any parent’s nightmare. When you couple that with the history of the area and the fact that nobody seemed to do anything to get to the root of the problem before things escalated, makes for a brilliant show.

When series two started I was expecting more of the same, but I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an interesting case, and there is no doubt that Fred was a seriously nasty guy, but it didn’t resonate as much as the first series. Even interviews with the ever charming Rob Lowe couldnt save it.

Final thoughts

Pushkin Industries is to factual podcasts what Rusty Quill is to fictional ones. Revisionist History is their flagship show and will be getting a review soon, there are others too that are all outstanding. This one started well enough, but I feel the second series was not quite up to the usual standard of excellence. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m writing the review, so it is what it is.

If they had left it as a one off, then it would have easily been a four or five brain show. I had to knock some off for series two though. No doubt there are plenty of incredible, dark stories from this area and era. Rob Lowe even discussed some things that could make for interesting story threads. Will there be a season three? Will it be a return to form? We shall just have to wait and see.

You can get Lost Hills here:

https://www.pushkin.fm/podcasts/lost-hills

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

In the Chambers of Lovecraft

Malevolent review

Production company – Rusty Quill

Rating –

Malevolent logo

Malevolent is a podcast whose reputation preceded it. I had heard good things from lots of places. Indeed, this review being written now is due to a Twitter thread where it was being widely praised. I figured I must have missed something. I’d listened to four episodes and, in the words of Shania Twain, it didn’t impress me much. So had I written it off too soon, or was I right in my hasty assumption? Read on and I’ll tell you.

So what’s it about?

Malevolent is a horror podcast that flies its Lovecraft flag with pride. The story follows Arkham P.I Arthur Lester who wakes up in his office with no memory of recent events and is unable to see. He can hear a mysterious voice though that appears to be coming from inside his head. This voice guides him, and so begins the adventure to discover not only what happened to Arthur, but what happened to “the voice” as well. This unlikely duo navigate as best they can to solve the mystery, without running afoul of the numerous enemies they encounter.

Speaking of enemies, there are plenty on display here. From distrustful police officers, spooky cultists and the more eldritch horrors of Lovecraft and Chambers, there are plenty of antagonists to try and hinder Arthur on his mission. It’s always fun to try and identify the creatures from the descriptions, playing a kind of mythos “Guess Who”

Is it any good?

Put it this way. It isn’t as bad as I first thought. I had let a few things colour my judgement, and I suspect I was being a bit fussy.

The voice acting is good, although the phase effect on “the voice” will never not be irritating. Even more impressive is that the whole thing is written, directed and performed by Harlan Guthrie. I was surprised at this because while there is obviously a limited cast I wouldn’t have guessed it was a solo effort. For the most part his accents and characterisations are spot on.

Likewise, the production values are reassuringly high. The sound effects are very good and help build tension well. The monster effects are excellent too. They sound original and exactly how I’d imagine an eldritch horror to sound, and the gurgling gore sounds are deliciously disgusting.

One of the things that first threw me (and still does), is that this is a cross between a written story and some kind of improvised roleplaying game. There are definitely points in the story where you can hear dice being rolled before clues or items get discovered.

***NOTE*** On looking at the website, it turns out that the patreon supporters got to vote on the outcome of the original shorter episodes. These got compiled into the longer ones that are released as the podcast.

It is almost literally like an RPG. Because Arthur can’t see, the voice is his eyes and has to describe the surroundings in the manner of a Games Master. This makes it seem like a cross between Call Of Cthulhu and vintage kids TV show Knightmare.

Final thoughts

Based on the first four episodes I had decided it was a one or two brain podcast. Against my better judgement, and some (imagined) peer pressure on Twitter, I have given it another go.

I’m still not too sure what the point is with having the disembodied voice other than to act as a vehicle for the “interactive” side of the concept. I wonder if it would have been as effective to just have a mysterious person be in the room when Arthur woke up. The main plot points would still have worked just fine with minimal work.  I’m sorry but I think there would have been a better effect than that weird phasing to give the impression of being in Arthur’s head.

Apart from the dice rolling aspect of this series, what ultimately held this back from getting a five brain score was the fact I didnt really like the main character much at all. Over the course of the series, he’s undergone great hardship and stress, and ultimately it bothered me not one bit. When Jonathan Sims realised his situation towards the end of his story, in fact anyone in T.M.A. it was genuinely emotional. Im not sure why, but there certainly were moments when I wished that Arthur would learn some respect for the things he was dealing with. Maybe its “character development”, but the way he starts to act , despite what he knows and has experienced should have had serious repercussions.

Despite my misgivings, and my own little “voice” saying to score it really low, I have to say that I’ve grown to like this series a lot. I could have binged the whole lot in two days, and the big twists make up for the things that I dislike. I still don’t feel that it’s a proper five brain show, but it has just squeaked into a four.

I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong.

You can get Malevolent here:

https://www.malevolent.ca/episodes/

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Its got to be HEROIC

How To Burn A Million Quid review

Production company – BBC

Rating –

How To Burn A Million Quid logo

In the entire history of music, there have been few artists that have genuinely pushed boundaries of their genre. The KLF are one of the even shorter list that pushed the boundaries of reality itself. So unbuckle your brain, jump in your ice cream van, and prepare for a story that proves truth can indeed be stranger than fiction.

What’s it all about?

The KLF (aka The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, aka The JAMS, aka The Timelords, and many other projects and pseudonyms) was the brainchild of Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond. Long story short, they started making electronic music that proved very popular, something that was at odds with their love of Robert Anton Wilson and the Illuminatus! Trilogy. Despite trying to prove that pop music was dead and going out of their way to be as unpopular as possible, they still became one of the biggest acts of the late 80s/early 90s. As fans of the trilogy will know, the universe has a dark sense of humour and is not averse to throwing a curveball your way just to be annoying.

From burning their albums outside ABBA’s studio, to firing machine guns at the BRIT awards. From wanting to build a giant pyramid from the ashes of their fans, to the stunt that gives this series its name, there isn’t much they didn’t try (or haven’t tried) in their mission to satisfy their artistic manifesto and discordian destiny. In 1994, they performed their final gesture ( the one that gives this series its name) and pretty much disappeared. 23 years later however, they reappeared with a few new, and no less remarkable projects.

I’m skimming over an awful lot of detail here because I really don’t want to spoil any of the insanity and hijinx. If you are my age or older, you’ll no doubt not only remember the music, but some of the stunts they pulled too. Thankfully, most of them get covered in this series, so you won’t miss out at all.

So is it any good?

100% yes. Despite really trying to make music that people would hate, The KLF were very good. The Illuminatus! Trilogy is very good too (but that’s something for a different blog), and the total commitment of two guys to put their careers in the hands of chance is bordering on unbelievable.

As anyone who’s ever read R.A.W. will testify to, there is no such thing as coincidence, and signs and clues are everywhere. Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond are two exemplars of that. Also, as anyone who’s read R.A.W. will testify to is that doing this is the sure way to “chapel perilous”. Something that Cauty and Drummond are also two exemplars of.

The production values are high, this is a BBC podcast after all, so you know it’ll be quality. The acting is great too, with the voice talents of Paul Higgins as Bill Drummond, Nicholas Burns as Jimmy Cauty and Jeremy Stockwell as the narrator Ken Campbell. I won’t go in to where you’ve seen (or heard) these guys before, because they are all very prolific, but you’ll recognise their voices straight away. Google is your friend in this case.

Final thoughts

I suppose that if you aren’t familiar with the band, or these stories, then you could just scoff and call bullshit. I mean, they are funny and ridiculous, and (almost) unbelievable. What they definitely are though is amazing, in the literal sense. This is a very funny series indeed and I will definitely recommend it to anyone whether you like the music or not.

I think what makes Drummond and Cauty so endearing here is that they are two ordinary guys bouncing from one stunt to the next without really being in control. They know they must do something “heroic”, and that it will probably all work out fine. There are times when that trust is tested though, as is usually the case in these spiritual journeys. There is no malice here, they arent nasty arseholes trying to get one over on people, it’s just that their idea of how reality should work is at odds with most of the other people they encounter.

I’ve actually listened to the whole thing three times and it never gets boring. There’s only one or two other series that I can say that about, so make of that what you will. It’s a testament, not only to the top notch writing, but the acting talent here that makes it hold up to multiple plays.

It’s also nice that on the BBC sounds app, most things are available for a month or two and then (just like in the days before Sky+ or even *gasp* video recorders) you have to wait patiently for a rebroadcast. This one is apparently available indefinitely. So now you’ve got no excuse not to check it out have you?

HAIL ERIS!

You can get How To Burn A Million Quid here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06x35s5

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

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