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December 05, 2012


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Lawrence Gordon Clark, Bob Mahoney and Rob Walker - 1995
Synapse Film Region 1 DVD (Two discs)

Not to be confused with any television series with the name, Thriller, this was a limited, five episode British series. Unlike Hammer House of Horror, which I reviewed three months ago, there is neither the cachet of the Hammer name, nor the curiosity of seeing a handful of past and future stars in action. I'm not certain that having a series filmed in Yorkshire would mean much to stateside viewers.

These might be best described as psychological horror stories, but I suspect that the producers just wanted to cut corners by limiting the special effects budget. There's also a bit of repetition going on, with people hit by cars, automobile accidents, and flashes of nudity with two women in different episodes, although to be fair, one is in the shower, and the other is in the tub. The music in one episode sounds like a fair approximation of Bernard Herrmann's Psycho score, while another episode clearly has a death scene unmistakably lifted from Suspiria. Am I assuming too much that the name of one of the characters, Peter Walker, was meant as a kind of in-joke?

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Actually, that episode with its references to some of the more extreme examples of horror movies in the Seventies, "The Man who didn't Believe in Ghosts", is the best of the five. The story of a writer whose career is to debunk the existence of the paranormal has just enough intrigue, as the writer literally stakes his life to prove that what ever is happening in his own house has a rational explanation. The first episode, "Prophesy", about a seance that revives the spirit of a 17th Century Satanist, causing death and disaster to the participants, is also of interest. On the other hand, "Toby" might only be notable for the sight of a woman breast feeding her invisible ghost baby. There is an episode of a creepy guy who lives in an abandoned old church, goaded to do very bad things by a friend who may, or may not, be real. The final episode, about ritual deaths of kidnapped children, and references the historical, and horrific origins, of nursery rhymes, is more interesting in conception than in, ahem, execution.

The biggest mystery concerning Chiller is where are the opening credits? Without checking IMDb, there's no way to know who wrote or directed any of the episodes. It's strange that the main credits are missing, and that Synapse would release the DVDs in this fashion. A written supplement with those credits, and maybe a few notes explaining why this series might be considered important, would have been helpful.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 5, 2012 08:17 AM