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Chiller: The Complete Series DVD review

REVIEWS - DVD REVIEWS

A mixed bag of shivers from the mid-90s...

Chiller - 1995

Even if you watched it, it's unlikely you'll ever remember the 90s supernatural horror/fantasy series Chiller originally shown in 1995 on ITV; There's a good reason for that. Recognisable writers and well-respected British actors make everything look good on paper, but watching the five episodes suggests they were nothing more than early pre-fame career-building work for the majority of the cast.

Set in London and flashing back to a Ouija board séance, Prophecy is the opening story. As Francesca's friends drop around her, she comes to realise her new boyfriend's son, Edward, may have something to do with the tragic bout of accidents. Prophecy relies on the lead's Catholic religion and her boyfriend's (Nigel Havers) family history. As a sadist and paedophile, Marquis Francis Halkin is the “black sheep” of the family and somehow young Edward seems psychically linked to him. The eerie Halkin family motto “Non Omnis Moriar” (“I shall not completely die”) and slippery Edward character are the spookiest things about Prophecy, despite it being one of the better stories. A terrible twist ending and preposterous plot premise unquestioningly accepted by characters give Prophecy a Tales From The Crypt feel.

Martin Clunes follows on from Prophecy as Ray in Toby – the story of a quite literal “phantom pregnancy”. Ray's Art teacher wife miscarries and is involved in an accident. Moving near the sea, they plan a fresh start and seem to getting just that when Louise finds out she's pregnant again. Warning bells start to ring when the doctor reassures her: “You're going to give birth to a normal healthy baby”. In a low-budget comedy-horror kind of way, Toby is actually quality viewing, managing to incorporate a horrific birth scene, self-starting music boxes, the constant echoey sound of sinister-looking house cats, toys playing by themselves and yet another character psychically linked to the dead. The piece de resistance? A cantankerous ghost baby forcedly suckling on its “mother's” breast and the dodgy revelation that "They grow on the other side".

As one of the weaker Chiller episodes Mirror Man is safely nestled right in the middle of the series. John Simm plays Gary – a young man living in a derelict church, pursued by social worker, Anna Spalinsky, who takes over the case after her colleague is run over. Mysterious character Michael is mentioned throughout the episode resulting in an annoyingly transparent plot twist. Playing the irritating “neglect card” a delusional Gary defends himself saying "If someone had been there, I wouldn't have needed Michael", somehow trying to make the whole episode alright.

The final two episodes, Number Six and The Man Who Didn't Believe in Ghosts, are both courtesy of a most probably rather sheepish Anthony Horowitz. After a stroke Dr Richard Kramer moves from London to a new house in the country. Although Windwhistle Hall is reportedly haunted, he refuses to believe in ghosts – that is until he hears about how the old bankrupt owner's wife died. When the family dog drowns, maggots appear in the meal, a ropey chandelier falls and his son tumbles through the banisters, Kramer is forced to admit something is up but still refuses to believe in ghosts. Boasting its own nonsensical twist and appalling special effects (a comical masked ghost reminiscent of the Phantom of the Opera,) The Man Who Didn't Believe in Ghosts is the lowest Chiller falls.

The series' finale, Number Six, deviates from the car accidents, psychics and house-moving featured in almost all earlier episodes. Instead we're caught in the middle of the hunt for a serial killer who's already murdered five children over a two year period, and each time during a full moon. Number Six returns to paedophilia but this time relying on the eeriness of playground chants/rhymes as delusional little Johnny sees his taunters.

Kevin McNally plays the lead police officer, accompanied by his teacher girlfriend (Maggie O'Neill, Shameless' very own legendary Sheila) who does some amazingly tenuous detective work.

Although markedly dated and failing to make good use of promising opening credits, fans of 90s fashion, Tales Of The Unexpected, The Twilight Zone and Tales From The Crypt may still appreciate Chiller. Unlike the optimistic name suggests, Chiller is unlikely to startle but plenty of opportunities for random celeb spotting may just get the brain working.

2 stars

Director: Various, including Lawrence Gordon Clark, Bob Mahoney, Rob Walker
Writer:
Various, including Anthony Horowitz, Stephen Gallagher
Running Time:
250 mins
Number of Discs:
2
Price:
£19.99, only available from www.networkdvd.co.uk
Certificate:
18
Starring
: John Simm, Martin Clunes, Nigel Havers, Phyllis Logan, Kevin McNally, Don Warrington, Kate Isitt, Maggie O'Neill, Peter Egan, Serena Gordon, Rosemary Leach

Chiller is released today.


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