Tag: Folk Horror

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

If you go down to the woods today…

Old Gods Of Appalachia review

Production company – DeepNerd Media/Rusty Quill

Rating –

old gods of appalachia logo

This is another series that got snapped up for distribution by the brilliant boffins at Rusty Quill. I’ve been a fan of this series for ages now. It’s also proof that those spooky algorithms that apps use for recommendations really do work (sometimes). To be honest, if it wasn’t for those pesky queue jumper posts that I rush to publish, you’d have been reading this a long time ago. So read on family, here is my Old Gods Of Appalachia review.

What’s it all about then?

Old Gods Of Appalachia is a weekly Lovecraftian/folk horror podcast, covering a huge timeline from the 17th to the early 20th century. This is all about dark impenetrable forests, witches, demons and the unstoppable push of industrialization. Each series consists of one or two main story arcs, with a few shorter spin-off tales thrown in to fill out this strange alternate reality.

As each series progresses, the story follows different sets of characters that despite their adventures seem very believable. Whilst each of these story arcs seem separate, they slowly merge to become some epic horrifying saga that spans many years and affects many people.

One thing you’ll notice from the outset is that the stories here are all about powerful women. The male characters are usually flawed, or weak, or both. This is something that may get the Joe Rogan fans and other insecure “alpha males” all red faced, but it’s not done in a “woke” (shudder) manner. It just so happens that the women in the stories are all strong and independent, and are usually fed up with the way they’ve been treated in the past. The fact that they also have knowledge of ancient and arcane powers obviously helps somewhat.

Is it any good?

Absolutely. I would recommend it to any true horror fan. The stories swing from action packed, to horrific, to poignant. The world inhabited by the characters feels bleak, hard and uncaring. The poor are downtrodden, and the rich above the law. It seems very “real” despite the strange and heavily occult overtones. 

Each episode is narrated with real emotion by Steve Shell. There are some podcasts and audiobooks that I can listen to in bed to send me to sleep, not so with this one. Steve’s voice acting is so good and impassioned that it would keep me awake (not that I’d really want to go to sleep and miss any second of the stories he tells). For the most part, the stories are solo narrations by Steve, but the voice actors that do appear in the episodes are also very talented. Too many podcasts have been let down by a single poorly acted character. Not so here though. I could probably count on one hand podcasts with production values as consistently high as this.

The story is unbelievably well written. Whilst Steve Shell and Cam Collins both have previous form in the podcast business. I don’t think they’ve written any other series like this (forgive me if I’m wrong). It was really surprising for a podcast like this to just emerge from the aether so perfectly formed. Especially when there are more well known companies who can’t produce series half as good as this.

From the very first episode, you get dragged into the rich mythos and history of the Appalachians. You can imagine some of these stories being told by “mamaws and papaws” in candle light or by the fireside, but it soon takes that vertical roller coaster like drop into very dark territory indeed.

Final thoughts

“Lovecraftian” seems to be a bit of a buzzword over the last few years. Many people have tried to make Lovecraftian podcasts and many have failed. This one does feel truly Lovecraftian though, and not just because of the era that it’s set in. The inhabitants of this world are for the most part, powerless against the supernatural forces they encounter. Things can be held at bay, but not destroyed. The seductive nature of this power also easily corrupts those who would try to harness it for their own gain, and the weak willed are at the mercy of the darker forces. Time means nothing to these beings, and some plucky human with the right skills is only a temporary problem. One day someone will  forget and then the door will open.

I have a real soft spot in my heart for this series. This wasn’t one that needed a few episodes to warm up, or took a while for the writers to figure stuff out. It started great and just got better, and darker, and bigger. Like the 80’s horror films where the stormclouds bloom over the unsuspecting town, the darkness of this series spreads quickly. Give it a listen. You’ll love it.

You can get Old Gods Of Appalachia here:

https://www.oldgodsofappalachia.com/

Or wherever you get your podcasts

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