Saturday, September 14, 2013

Hammer Chillers: Don't Go There - AudioReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

Something to chill the very air...

For the sixth and final tale from the first anthology of spooky treats, writer Stephen Volk explores Greek legend. In one of the most adult of all, we visit a Greek island for partying and wild sex. Sadly for Andrew, however, his encounter with a mysterious woman leads to tragic consequences, causing a father to investigate the reason for his son's coma. While mother Laura Daulby (played by Lizzie Roper) is more concerned about Andrew's wellbeing, John Daulby (Tony Gardner) develops an obsession with the young Greek woman herself, Stheno (Daphne Alexander). But what at first appears to be a yearning for understanding quickly develops into a dangerous obsession.

Though Andrew's condition is simply believed to have been caused by a misuse of drugs, John isn't so sure, and his journey into the murky side of Greece brings with it its own nightmare. Who would have thought that a sexually-insatiable appetite would be so frightening to witness? Personally, I am not sure what to make of "Don't Go There", it doesn't feel eerie enough to be placed next to other titles in this series and yet... there is something altogether fascinating about this erotic audio affair, perhaps just as mesmerising as Stheno's alluring nature and mystery. I am not very well educated with Greek history and legend, and so reading up on the immortal Gorgon sisters Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale was interesting.

Hammer Films had visited a similar story once before, with the 1964 feature "The Gorgon", starring Christopher Lee as Professor Karl Meister and Peter Cushing as Dr. Namaroff. Set in the German village of Vandorf, in 1910, a father investigates mysterious deaths only to discover that the very last of the Gorgon sisters stalks a local castle. So it is nice, then, that a tale of the Gorgons has been updated with "Don't Go There".

As for casting, the choices are excellent: Gardner delivers a fine performance as a father consumed by intense dangerous obsession, disgusted by what he sees around him and a man whose single-minded goal is to locate the woman known as Stheno and get the answers he seeks; in contrast, Roper's character is far more interested in their son's immediate well-being, and it is she alone who must face organising Andrew's journey home to England - you can sympathise with Laura completely, wishing her husband would just stop his futile crusade and remain by her side. And then there is Stheno herself, Alexander's sensuous performance successfully brings a chill of its own - knowing this to be horror, you are never quite sure exactly who or what this woman is supposed to be: just a mentally-ill out-patient, or something far more sinister?

"Don't Go There" feels somewhat light in depth at times, perhaps there should have been more focus on the legend of the Gorgons? But then, with all honesty, time restraints call for direct storytelling, and it is certainly achieved here. It is chilling to hear how John's state of mind deteriorates rapidly, even to the point where he embraces insanity itself in his quest. This tale, for me, does share something in common with fellow audio outings "Spanish Ladies" and "Sticks and Stones, as much as in the gore factor is raised high when least expected. Something clearly stated in the closing scene is that the Daulby marriage was far from blissful. Perhaps that, in itself, is the message here: no need for a heart to be turned to stone when it had already been such in the first place...

The only negative for me is the overuse of swearing by character Fergus (portrayed by Angus King) - I'm sure I'll get sworn at for saying this - but it was deeply unnecessary and distracting. And, honestly, the atmosphere didn't require it.

Hammer Chillers has come a long way since its debut with Stephen Gallagher's "The Box", released on 7th June 2013. Much praise must be given to writers Gallagher, Mark Morris ("The Fixation"), Paul Magrs ("Spanish Ladies"), Robin Ince ("Sticks and Stones"), Christopher Fowler ("The Devil in Darkness") and Volk. In addition, the superb production of the entire series has lived up to expectations, with audio company Bafflegab delivering the shocks perfectly when required. And then, there is the wonderful cast assembled, such as Lauren Kellegher, Miles Jupp, Jacqueline King, Camille Coduri, and Daphne Alexander - every actor has shone in their role, giving "Hammer Chillers" that extra edge needed to make this kind of audio rewarding and spine-tingling.

It has been an intriguing trip through the layers of mind, myth, and terror. Whatever future lies ahead for Hammer Films, we shall always have the Box, a Spanish doll, or a haunted elevator shaft... Thanks must go to everyone involved, including Simon Barnard, Martin Johnson, and Edwin Sykes (for the brilliant music scores).

Recorded at Moat Studios, London, the Hammer Chillers tales can be downloaded direct from the official website, or purchased as a CD digipack.