Thursday, December 27, 2012

DVD Review: CHILLER - The Complete Television Series (1995)

CHILLER The Complete Television Series (1995) 
2-Disc DVD

Label: Synapse Films 

Duration: 265 minutes
Region: Region 1 NTSC

Audio: English Dolby Digital English 2.0 Mono
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame 

Directors: Lawrence Gordon Clark, Anthony Horowitz, Glenn Chandler 
Cast: Nigel Havers, Martin Clunes, Sophie Ward, Kevin McNally

Synopsis: The television series Chiller was a five episode horror anthology that aired in the UK in 1995. Presented here for the first time in the U.S., these supernatural shockers feature malevolent spirits, a brutal serial killer and a haunted house set in contemporary England. Starring many of Britain’s leading actors like Nigel Havers (Chariots of Fire, TV’s Coronation Street), Martin Clunes (UK’s Men Behaving Badly), Sophie Ward (Young Sherlock Holmes) and Kevin McNally (Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series), this compelling collection will leave you chilled to the bone!

I grew up on a steady diet of American TV anthology series beginning with vintage TWILIGHT ZONE episodes, the fantasy adventures of AMAZING STORIES, MONSTERS, the schlocky TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE,  HBO's EC Comics inspired TALES FROM THE CRYPT right up through to Showtime's MASTERS OF HORROR series. I definitely have a soft spot for the format, it was a treat to dip my toes into what the UK had to offer with the recent release of HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR from the legendary horror studio and now with this, a short-lived five episode horror anthology series broadcast in the UK in 1995 and now on DVD for the first time ever in the US from Synapse Films. Let's check out the episodes...

PROPHECY (52:55) A group teens hold a séance in the basement of a London café for shits and giggles but to their surprise they each receive a prophecy of their own deaths. Five years later, the fatal prophecies begin to come true in a very FINAL DESTINATION sort of way, this one was a good bit of fun, a great season opener with each of the character dying off in fun  and often bloody scenarios. Our main character Franny is trying to get to the bottom of the death curse before her ticket is punched, along the way she takes up with a man named Oliver and realizes that his son Edward is somehow connected to the tragedies. Some nice deaths and suspense here including few vehicular deaths, a grisly elevator ride, and some occult elements including spooky seances. The finale really ratchets up the tensions as the forces good and evil face off, while the script wanders a bit this one was quite entertaining with a strong cast.

TOBY (52:15) When Ray and Louise Knight lose their unborn son Toby in a car accident they are crushed, but when Louise discovers she’s pregnant again things seem to be on the upswing. However, a routine scan reveals she is not actually pregnant, the depression following the miscarriage seems to have spurred a hysterical pregnancy exhibiting all the physical signs of a baby being on the way, it's certainly an oddity, she even goes into labor which produces not a child but blood. Afterwards she is haunted by the incessant cries of a child emanating from her empty nursery, she even begins nursing this ghost child leaving her befuddled husband thinking she's gone nutters, but has she really? This one had some good creepy moments but fell a bit flat following the quite good first episode

HERE COMES THE MIRROR MAN (52:44)  This third episode features a newcomer social worker searching for a troubled, young homeless man named Gary who's plagued by a naughty friend named Michael whom may or may not be a demon force, either way he encourages Gary to commit murderous acts, at one point pushing our social worker's predecessor in front of an oncoming truck. This was a nice psychological thriller with strong performances, the ending is telegraphed pretty far in advance of the conclusion and the story is a bit subdued for my tastes but a decent episode nonetheless.

THE MAN WHO DIDN'T BELIEVE IN GHOSTS (52:56) When a a professional skeptic of the paranormal moves to the countryside and into a supposed haunted property with his wife and daughter, they find themselves the victims of unexplained events. As a matter of professional integrity the skeptic scoffs at the notion of an actual paranormal explanation and seeks to discover the true culprit but his stubborn quest strains his marital relationship and puts his family in harm's way. Strange happening include maggot infested fowl for dinner, chandeliers falling, doors locking, dead pets and a masked apparition, all dealt with in a very dry and British detachment. There's some great suspenseful elements here but the pace of the story is quite languid, however, a fiery finale nearly makes up for that despite not following up on a bizarre sexual attack that takes place earlier in the episode.

NUMBER SIX (53:15) The series finale is a pretty great atmospheric chiller with occult elements that opens with a fog-laden chase through the woods, right away you know your in for a treat - this was my favorite episode of the lot.A small Yorkshire town is plagued by a child killer whom has taken the lives of five children from the area, the deaths seem to be connected to an ancient Druidic area of the woods nearby. A young boy at school is haunted by dreams of spooky schoolmates telling him to "play with us" and indeed there are some strange goings on at the schoolyard. Meanwhile the boys father, a cop, and sets  about to solve the mystery before his son falls victim. This one had some nice red herrings,   suspense and loads of atmosphere plus a haunting finale, good stuff. 

DVD: Unfortunately there are no special features or cool episode introductions like we saw with the HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR release, those were very cool and contextualized each episode and something similar here would have been appreciated. The menu is very basic, you get a play all option or an episode index that features the episode title and air date.

All five episodes are presented in their original British broadcast versions and in the original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. The image is here is pretty grainy, somewhat murky and even a bit noisy, the series was shot on 16mm and transferred to video, it's not the most pleasing video you will see but it's quite serviceable. The English language Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 audio is also decent, a bit muted at times, but quite listenable and easily discerned.

Verdict: After Synapse's fantastic HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR release I was primed for more UK TV horror anthologies but I found this one rather dry, some decent bits of suspense and mystery but lacking overall the thrills and exploitation of the Hammer series. CHILLER is not too shabby, fans of Brit TV suspense and mystery might find more to love than myself but for me nothing here screams for a re-watch despite some enjoyment first time around. 2.5 Outta 5