Many thanks for the comments on last week's post; I see that I shall have to check out Thomas Ligotti forthwith.
This week, I'm turning my attention to television. Being of a certain age, I was lucky enough to be in my early teens when the great scary TV shows of the mid to late seventies were coming out. Stuff like Sapphire and Steel (specifically the one with the abandoned railway station and the one about the entity that can trap you inside photographs), Doctor Who (The Green Death and the Ark in Space stick out in my mind), The Omega Factor (in which a team of scientists investigate the paranormal and get more than they bargained for). I was only seven when The Stone Tape came out so never got to watch it but I'm told that authorities on the genre praise it as a very scary piece of work indeed.
TV moves us one step further from the kind of imaginative playground that books evoke; with the written word, much of the visualisation is done inside our own minds, whereas on TV, we are forced, to a certain extent to accept the visual opinion of the writer and director. That's probably why a lot of what I found scary as a youngster derives its initial premise from everyday reality - I could imagine that somewhere, perhaps quite nearby, the events of the programme could actually be happening.
More recently, I found the three-part Crooked House by Mark Gatiss (League of Gentlemen and occasional Dr Who writer for the new series) able to crank up the heart-rate quite considerably. It combined a creeping sense of menace with some serious shocks and an excellent twist at the very end which made the watching all the more worthwhile.
Crooked House occupied the slot where usually sit the BBC dramatisation of M R James ghost stories for Christmas. James' stories, which I quite like for their quaint and generally understated effect, work particularly well on TV, especially the ones with the framing device of Christopher Lee as James, telling the stories to his undergraduate students.
So, being British, my recollections are of UK programmes; I'm sure that my US readers will have fond memories of TV shows that have scared them witless over the years. Please feel free to share...
(next week, I'll be moving on to the cinema)
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