Tag: Rusty Quill

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 

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.

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

Caveat emptor

The Storage Papers review

Production Company – Grinner Media/Rusty Quill

Rating –

Storage Papers logo

Yet another audio drama that falls under the Magnus archives‘ papers/tapes/archives umbrella. As you’ll notice, it’s also now produced by the excellent Rusty Quill, a brilliant company that has recently snapped up a lot of the shows I’ll be reviewing.

What’s it about then?

The Storage Papers is a series following the adventures of Jeremy. He acquires the contents of a storage locker for the ridiculous price of $5, in the manner of those awful reality TV shows. Amongst the usual junk in there are boxes of what appears to be strange case files and witness statements. Shortly after reading through these, he realises his life is taking a strange turn. He starts getting paranoid that he’s being followed and he hears strange noises in his house at night. After setting an audio recorder up to capture anything that happens when he’s asleep,  he manages to record a spooky voice speaking Latin. It translates as “read, share”, and so (on this rather clich√© premise) begins this bi-weekly horror podcast.

Is it any good?

This is a bit of a tough one in the same manner as The Wrong Station. The stories in this podcast are all related like The Magnus Archives, and are all well written and genuinely creepy. The main arc twists and turns and develops not only in the case files of the papers themselves, but in the “real world” that Jeremy inhabits. He makes friends and allies along the way, and enemies too.

A lot of the stories here deal with dream logic and altered reality. The people in the case files experience things that should get caught on security cameras or seen by witnesses but for some reason, despite their physicality, they don’t get recorded in the “real” world. Personally I really like this bending of what is real, it adds a strange haziness that contrasts nicely with Jeremy’s experiences.

There are elements here of lots of things I like. Obviously the premise is similar to many good podcasts. This is the “found footage” of the podcast world, and like found footage films, there are good ones and bad ones. There are also elements of the SCP Foundation too, although this series is definitely more Magnus Archives than SCP.

My main problem with it is the fact that Jeremy’s voice is so flat and emotionless that it becomes almost droning. I understand that he’s trying to tell the story of the papers in a matter of fact way, but it is very boring to listen to. Anthony Botelho’s voice acting in The Wrong Station is way better (apart from the Scottish accent). The cynical and soporific Jonathan Sims in The Magnus Archives is also better. In fact Jeremy would have done well to try and follow this style a bit closer, just to add some kind of seasoning to what is an essentially bland stew.

Final thoughts

The Storage Papers has ultimately missed the mark somewhat when it comes to a truly binge worthy podcast. While the stories themselves are well written and creepy, the narration lets it down and after a few back to back episodes you’ll find your ears turning off and you’ll be rewinding more and more often to catch bits of plot you’ve missed. It’s a shame really because there’s no way to change it now we are 66 episodes in. I mean, I did binge it and I’m sure I missed lots of stuff but after a while you wonder if it really matters. Jeremy certainly doesn’t seem too bothered by the events.

This, like The Wrong Station, was one that I abandoned for a long time. I restarted listening to review it and I’ve managed to catch up. I did enjoy it all over again, but Jeremy’s voice soon gets too much and I need a break.

Actually, I think this would be a great podcast to alternate with “The Wrong Station”. Maybe two or three episodes of that, with two or three of this. You’ll probably enjoy them both a lot more that way. Maybe absence will make the heart grow fonder.

You can get The Storage Papers here:

https://rustyquill.com/the-storage-papers/

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

You don’t have to be mad to work here…

The Magnus Archives Review

Production Company – Rusty Quill

Rating –

Magnus Archives logo

The Magnus Archives was the second podcast I ever listened to. It’s also one of my all time favourites. Indeed, it seems that it is the favourite of an awful lot of people too. I mean, since its release there’s been a glut of podcasts with archives/papers/records in the title that all share a somewhat similar premise. I guess imitation is the greatest form of flattery eh?

What’s it all about then?

The general plot is as follows. Cynical researcher Jonathan Sims gets “promoted” to the job of head archivist at the mysterious Magnus Institute. It’s a job he’s not really keen on from the outset. The previous archivist has passed away leaving the records in shocking disarray. Almost at once he realises it’s not going to be as easy as he first thought. His main job is to record the old handwritten and typed archives to tape. For some reason, digital audio doesn’t work in the institute, and organise them as best he can.

He discovers strange first hand accounts of occurrences that are frankly unbelievable, at first glance unrelated, and are initially met with skepticism. As the series’ progress though, the separate stories start to intertwine and even Mr Sims starts to believe the incredible and realise that things are not what they seem. 

Jonathan Sims’ voice is perfect for narrating these stories. To be honest, I’d listen to him reading the back of a cereal box. He has an almost emotionless tone that rarely portrays anything other than his seeming regret for taking the job. In the early episodes they are almost entirely his solo narrations, with few other characters appearing, although as the series progresses so other characters play more of a part. The soporific effect of this would make it a perfect bedtime podcast if the stories weren’t so weird and creepy.

His lack of emotion is a trait that causes no end of irritation to the other characters that appear in the story, and it tests even his closest friendships at times. He is a man who does not suffer fools gladly, or anyone else for that matter. He’s also reluctant to take advice and just seems to have real problems dealing with other people on an emotional level in general. This is a point that does get some explanation in the later series’.

So is it one story arc or more of a portmanteau?

Early in the series, each episode seems to be a standalone story. Soon though, overarching plot points become apparent and the whole thing coalesces into a grim alternate reality that on more than one occasion gives genuine chills as you listen. Some of the episodes also combine their fiction with actual historical events. This kind of meta writing really drew me in when I first started my podcast journey. You can fool me like that all day long and I’ll love it!

As the story progresses, characters come and go, and some who were on the periphery earlier on get treated to their own episode (in some cases more than one episode). The humanity of each one also gets brought to the front as Jonathan conducts his duty with a grim determination. It also exposes a realistic duality to some characters who, for most of their existence in this universe are portrayed as genuinely villainous, but later on are shown to have a good side. In real life, people aren’t completely evil or completely good. There is a rather large grey area in people’s motivations, and the writing is perfect at portraying this.

Is it any good?

This podcast holds a special place in my heart. One of the things I think sets it apart from other audio dramas out there, is the fact that it was always written to be five series’ long. This means that it doesn’t lose direction halfway though, as is often the case elsewhere. It also means that there is an inevitable feeling of a countdown or running out of time, particularly towards the end of series four. The characters are all likeable (even the ones who aren’t supposed to be), so you really invest in their lives no matter which course they inevitably take.

I realise that I haven’t gone into much plot and character detail, but that is entirely intentional. I really don’t want to give any spoilers away at all. This is surely one of the finest audio dramas out there and one that you should check out immediately. You’ll thank me, I know you will.

You can listen to The Magnus Archives and find out more here:

https://rustyquill.com/the-magnus-archives/

Or catch it on your podcatcher of choice.

P.S. I thought I’d better listen to the first few episodes again, just to make sure I had all the facts straight. I’m now on episode five, and I think I’ll probably do the whole first series again (for the third time).

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