Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hammer Chillers: Devil In The Darkness - AudioReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

Something to chill the very air...

Those of us who suffer with claustrophobia, and a fear of elevators, will feel some sympathy in this fifth story as part of the Hammer Chillers audio anthology, a collaboration between Hammer Films and Bafflegab.

Mia (played by Lauren Kellegher), who works in the records department, takes the lift one Friday night while leaving the decommissioned St Petersburg International Archive. This, as it turns out, is a mistake and the young lady's nightmare scenario is played out, accompanied by Russian electrician Andrei (Dylan Charles). They are both trapped in the elevator between the third and fourth floors when there is a power cut. Minus a phone signal and emergency button, what should have been a short stay becomes something more - and darker...

The young woman's emotional, physical and mental wellbeing are tested as it becomes clear that there may not be any rescue at all. Even Mia's flatmate cannot be relied upon to notice that she is missing, and most of the staff have been transferred to the new archive. Shouts for help are unheard, and there is little in the way of food or drink.

This psychological drama plays out well, with Kellegher and Charles' characters facing the reality that this "bad building" has memories in the walls, as we learn that a thousand people died at the hands of the Cheka Security service 100 years ago in the basement - the lift shaft had been built where the stairwell once stood, which led to the interrogation room in the basement where those atrocities were committed.

Christopher Fowler's description of how those people died at the hands of Cheka officers a century ago never fails to haunt the imagination, adding to the sense of claustrophobia - ghosts of the dead as your only other companions in a nightmarish twist, superbly echoed by the sound design.

Devil In The Darkness sits perfectly with Hammer Chiller's debut tale The Box, which has a similar haunting theme. However, Fowler's play takes a positive step up, with a casting that couldn't have been better - Charles delivers a fine performance as the mysterious and intriguing Andrei, who develops a close relationship with his female companion. Kellegher, as the young English woman, delivers an equally fine performance as Mia's condition worsens over the following days, including a fever.

And still, the supernatural essence embraces further, two lost souls biding their time until that moment when the dead will claim them. Mia believes that the victims of the Cheka want revenge, and with this level of writing, it is easy to believe. Devil In The Darkness is indeed a powerful drama that upturns every emotion by exploring the depths of desperation and paranoia, all cooked up in the most perfect enclosed environment. The story also focuses on regret, the dreams that we desired in life but never quite reached.

Mention must always go to Simon Barnard, who has produced and directed this fascinating series, alongside Martin Johnson as Post-producer. Edwin Sykes' approach to sound is quite remarkable, a man who knows how to foil every scene with his own balance of apprehension and terror. Throughout every Hammer Chiller there has been nothing less than spine-tingling high quality drama, atmospheric and creepy, episodes that are reminiscent of those produced for the Hammer House of Horror television series! The bar has been raised from the very start and it is clear that each production can only add to an already glorious debut for this inspired collaboration. As far as firsts are concerned, this anthology of six can only be applauded for a job well done!

With Devil In The Darkness less is most definitely more: two talented actors, a great script, generously creepy sound design, all housed in the best production piece possible! Recorded at Moat Studios, London, the Hammer Chillers tales can be downloaded direct from the official website, or purchased as a CD digipack.

Whatever your choice, you are certain never to experience an elevator in the same way again. I mean, who knows what lies beneath...