Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Spectres Of The Long-Dead

Holy Glaaki, are people still making films like The Haunting of Radcliffe House? Can't the dead be left in peace?

There wasn't a sniff, not the barest molecule of postmodernism in Channel 5's Christmas serving of "scares". Everyone talks and acts like they've never seen or heard of a ghost story.  Psychics splutter, dogs slink, mysterious strangers appear from nowhere, and everywhere terrified children and sensible alternatives are ignored so that the narrative can stumble along to an ending which - in generalities and in specifics - is so derivative it does a better job of presenting the resurrected dead than the scenes with ghosts in them.

This is simply not something that should be being created in the 21st century.  Not because there's almost nothing here that requires the story be set after the 1970s (a faintly nice use of a computer screen notwithstanding), but because we should be past the point where writers can get away with this kind of unironic strip-mining of the past.  Doubtless those involved convinced themselves they were crafting something "traditional". Which is nonsense, obviously, because the central aspect of the traditional Christmas ghost story is that it should be scary. In the service of that goal you can use all the trappings of the past you want - though you can make that approach into a fetish, which carries its own problems - but the underlying story mechanisms need to be fresh. The one the one thing familiarity breeds more surely than contempt is a lack of fear.

In short, then, the aims and approach of ...Radcliffe... are working directly against each other, and the result is a pointless warmed-over corpse of a tale. It's not uncommon for this kind of total misunderstanding of tradition to exist - for people to obsess over form rather than intent - indeed it's just one more of the hundred thousand reasons people like Nigel Farage (Person of the Year in much the way Harold Shipman was briefly World's Most Interesting Doctor, one assumes) should be banished from public life, polite conversation and if possible all historical documentation.

But simply because a mistake is common doesn't make it forgiveable.  I very much think Olivia Williams and Matthew Modine deserve better than this. And I'm absolutely sure we do. What a fucking waste of Yorkshire.

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