Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Ghost Story for Christmas (A 25 Days of Shitmas Post from Jules Brudek of Gorehound Mike's)


A Ghost Story for Christmas  
By Jules Brudek

A Christmastime tradition that has its origins in the Victorian age and has been frightening the British on cold Christmas Eve nights for centuries is storytelling. A favorite among storytellers on Christmas Eve was reciting A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Eventually, with the popularity of circulating books, families would recite any ghost story that they could remember whilst sitting around the fireplace on the night before Christmas. Sounds positively macabre. That’s why I like it. 

In 1971, to celebrate this grand and spooky tradition, the BBC aired the first of eight episodes of A Ghost Stories for Christmas, a series that would showcase adapted film versions of popular ghost stories. Very British and guaranteed to be unlike anything you’ve ever seen, all the episodes aired one or two days before Christmas. Shot on 16mm color film and at times both claustrophobic and expansive, the cinematography never fails to deliver exactly what the story needs in order to goose the flesh. Accompanying the picturesque foggy seaside landscapes, darkened cobble stone streets and rainy hallows is a bleak and affecting score. The distorted journey wouldn't be complete without an overzealous, pretentious and snotty British hero that unwittingly plods along to his unjust fate. Even when the story isn't your cup of tea, the visual style and score with haunt you long after the episode is over.




In 1978, the BBC pulled the series and later revived it in 2005, for a four episode run. Still enjoyable and often starring famous character actors, this revival fell short of the mark because it contained a sleek, updated vibrance that replaced the genuine tone and frightful simplicity of the original series. On another note, all 12 episodes are incredibly hard to find in the states. At present, they are only available on region 2 DVDs. Unfortunately, only sets from Britain contain all 12 episodes and extras. These will not play in Standard American DVD or Blu-ray players. Thankfully, you can find all 12 episodes on Youtube when searching under their proper titles. (I’ve included them below) 

This year, I’ve classed up SHITFEST by including one of the most sought after and intriguing British television programs of our time. I hope you take note and follow suit. Please bring some class back into horror and put some fear back into Christmas.

A Ghost Story for Christmas is a perfect place to start. 

EPISODE REVIEW GUIDE

NOTE:  if you liked The Wicker Man (1973), then you will enjoy all of these episodes.



Aired December 24, 1971
Some carvings in a cathedral’s choir stalls spook a murderous cleric.



Spooky and kooky, however, this happens to be the weakest episode in the series.
MY RATING: 6/10
  
M. R. James, adapted by Lawrence Gordon Clark
Aired December 24, 1972



A archeology hobbyist goes digging up an area protected by a ghost. Expect chilling results. Unexpected twists make this an exemplary episode. 
MY RATING: 9/10

M. R. James, adapted by Robin Chapman
Aired December 25, 1973
An orphan boy moves into a cozy home owned by an eccentric philanthropist and inhabited by a ghost.
Some unforgettable special effects and some creepy folksy music make this a particularly haunting episode.



MY RATING: 8.5/10   

M. R. James, adapted by John Bowen
Aired December 23, 1974



In another treasure hunting episode that reminds me of The Blob (1958). 
Of course, the treasure is protected by a malevolent spirit and a violent curse. 
MY RATING: 7.5/10


M. R. James, adapted by David Rudkin
Aired December 23, 1975
In the most wildly imaginative end scene this series has to offer, seemingly inspiring both, Cronenberg and Raimi, (think back to the tree scene from Evil Dead (1981)) in the process. This episode follows an aristocrat as he becomes obsessed with an oversexed witch from the past and a very phallic tree in his yard. Most bizarre.
MY RATING: 9/10 





Aired December 22, 1976
The most famous episode is only one in the entire series written by Charles Dickens, the original Christmas storyteller. 
I cannot recommend this episode enough. I watch it every year.
MY RATING: 10/10


Aired December 28, 1977
Boobs and Blood. When a couple accidentally desecrates an ancient burial ground in their yard severe consequences occur.
MY RATING: 8/10


25 December 1978
A health spa that seems downright creepy. Leave it to the British to make a very homoerotic ghost story in the 70s and air it on TV. Wow.  
MY RATING: 8.5/10





M. R. James, adapted by Peter Harness
Aired December 23, 2005
An archeologist has a strange vacation when he borrows a dead man’s binoculars. Great dialogue and a wicked twist.
MY RATING: 8/10



M. R. James, adapted by Justin Hopper
Aired December 22, 2006
This is like a 19th century version of Stephen King’s 1408 (2007). A man tries to dispel a local legend about a curse on a room numbered 13.
MY RATING: 6/10 



M. R. James, adapted by Neil Cross
Aired December 24, 2010
John Hurt plays a man that leaves his ill wife in a retirement home while he goes on vacation. He seems to be haunted by the guilt of leaving her behind. 
MY RATING: 8/10


M. R. James, adapted by Mark Gatiss
Aired December 25, 2013
My favorite of the revival episodes takes place in an old library and begins with a mysterious man looking for a rare book of the Hebrew Torah. 
MY RATING: 9/10 

- Jules Brudek  
Gorehound Mike's

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