Thursday, July 4, 2013

Hammer Chillers: Spanish Ladies - AudioReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

Something to chill the very air...

Third in the fabulous Hammer Chillers audio anthology, a collaboration between Hammer Films and Bafflegab, the tensions are raised to a higher bar with a story that will almost definitely chill the air. In "Spanish Ladies", 36-year-old Phil (played by Ewan Bailey) lives with his Mummy (Jacqueline King) and, on the surface, life is pretty unremarkable. The former usually spends his days either sat in front of the television or out at the local pub; the latter enjoys a game at the Bingo hall with her friend Renee (Camille Coduri).

One day, having had suspicions that her son is seeing a "lady friend", Mummy questions Renee whether she has been aware of Phil's recent activities. From the off it is pretty clear that the son and mother relationship is a close one, perhaps too close, and the dominance that Mummy has over Phil is shocking though not unremarkable. His mother also enjoys making toilet roll covers out of dolls, calling them her Spanish Ladies. She also spends time prying into her son's life, reading his letters and looking under his bed in the search for mucky magazines; even the discovery of lingerie catalogues labels him a "dirty boy".

The knowledge that this installment was written by Paul Magrs (Doctor Who, Vince Cosmos) had this reviewer waiting impatiently to hear how this tale would be handled. The title alone was mystifying - I had imagined a twist on British sitcom "Duty Free" about a holiday from hell. However, delightfully, the author of "Brenda and Effie" had plenty of surprises up his sleeve and this allows for a step up in the gruesome stakes...

Jacqueline King (Doctor Who) is Mummy, a manipulative
parent who won't win any award for parenting

Many years ago, far too many years sadly to remember the title, I watched an American drama set in a prison. The conclusion to that programme gave me nightmares for a very long time. It had connected with my fear of claustrophobia. Thank you Paul for reminding me of that episode in my life! "Spanish Ladies" does its job extremely well in putting the chill back in to "chiller" with a horror that, at first, touches upon control and jealousy, before reaching a terrifying shiver half way with its turn from soap opera to "Psycho".

Once it becomes clear that Mummy is unhinged, you find that anything is possible. It is even probable that the dolls themselves could be demonic in nature, influencing her into committing unforgivable terrors. And so you listen, drawn and captivated, in this eerie chapter, waiting, breathing heavily (just me?)... I was also reminded a little of 1994 American thriller "Mother's Boys", as Phil's part in all of this becomes clear. He is clearly a man with secrets and a compromising past. Mummy, on the other hand, is manipulative, sharp and far too dangerous to be allowed. Phil is her darling boy, and she will do anything to keep him with her for the rest of her days. No one shall ever keep them apart!

Interestingly, all three cast members also starred in previous Hammer Chiller The Fixation, though their roles couldn't be any more different this time around - especially Bailey and King, who in Paul's well-fashioned and skillfully written piece are simply oozing with eye-opening creepiness while being intriguing at the same time. No subtlety here, as you will discover at the end. No spoilers, either, but you will find your heart racing, as I did! The marvel of this series to take something ordinary and twist it into a distorted horrific shape of evil and suspense really should be applauded. The writing, direction and acting is simply first-class, and the sound design never fails to amaze me.

This, and other stories in the series, are available from the official website. If you are to discover something new today then let it be this: Hammer Chillers. You will be entertained, surprised, and will surely wish to hurriedly turn the lights back on if you listen to any of these tales at night, in the dark - go on, that's the best way! Just don't be surprised if you find some Spanish Ladies staring at you from the end of your bed, or table...

As mentioned previously, the series can be downloaded or purchased as a CD digipack, and is produced by Bafflegab Productions. Thank you to everyone involved for their hard work in creeping me out!