7.6/10
2,606
68 user 28 critic

Ghostwatch (1992)

Not Rated | | Horror, Mystery | TV Movie 31 October 1992
The BBC gives over a whole evening to an 'investigation into the supernatural'. Four respected presenters and a camera crew attempt to discover the truth behind 'The most haunted house in ... See full summary »

Director:

Lesley Manning

Writer:

Stephen Volk
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Parkinson ... Michael Parkinson - Presenter
Sarah Greene Sarah Greene ... Sarah Greene - Reporter
Mike Smith Mike Smith ... Mike Smith - Phone-in Presenter
Craig Charles ... Craig Charles - Interviewer
Gillian Bevan Gillian Bevan ... Dr Lin Pascoe
Brid Brennan ... Pamela Early
Michelle Wesson Michelle Wesson ... Suzanne Early
Cherise Wesson Cherise Wesson ... Kim Early
Chris Miller Chris Miller ... Cameraman
Mike Aiton Mike Aiton ... Sound Recordist
Mark Lewis Mark Lewis ... Alan Demescu
Linda Broughton Linda Broughton ... Yvonne Etherly
Katherine Stark Katherine Stark ... Wendy Stott
Derek Smee ... Arthur Lacey
Roger Tebb Roger Tebb ... Local TV Presenter
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Storyline

The BBC gives over a whole evening to an 'investigation into the supernatural'. Four respected presenters and a camera crew attempt to discover the truth behind 'The most haunted house in Britain', expecting a light-hearted scare or two and probably the uncovering of a hoax. They think they are in control of the situation. They think they are safe. The viewers settle down and decide to watch 'for a laugh'. Ninety minutes later the BBC, and the country, was changed, and the consequences are still felt today. Written by Gary Thompson

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

We don't want to give anybody sleepless nights.

Genres:

Horror | Mystery

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

BBC Online - Cult Vault

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

31 October 1992 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Ghostwatch See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The TV movie was inspired by the 1938 radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds". See more »

Goofs

Because the studio presenters were reacting to footage recorded weeks before, there are many instances where Sarah Greene will answer questions not asked to her yet or studio presenters will have to re-ask questions to fill gaps before someone will answer. See more »

Quotes

Local TV Presenter: Do you think Mr. Pipes has come to hurt you?
Kim Early: I think he's come to hurt everybody. I think he wants to do nasty things.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Ghostwatch
31 July 2003 | by mbeswick99See all my reviews

Considering some of the myths and stories that have been generated by the legendary Halloween 1992 showing of Ghostwatch some disappointment may be felt when actually viewing it long after it was to have its greatest impact. However that is not to detract from what is an original and innovative drama, and one that has retained its ability to scare.

A BBC team are invited to Britain's most haunted house to investigate a malevolent presence terrorising the family that live there, in particular the eldest near-pubescent daughter. As events unfold live from the house an initially sceptical Michael Parkinson and an ever increasingly concerned parapsychologist begin to realise that the BBC is about to score a scoop far greater, and more dangerous, than they had bargained for.

I recall seeing Ghostwatch on its first and only transmission. I had missed the opening Screen One card and titles so what I sat down to I initially believed to be a real investigation into a haunted house. The first university research footage of a poltergeist attack on the two girls made my blood run cold. I remember phoning a friend to see if he was watching. I was shaken. Then I started to realise certain things. The mother and eldest daughter were not convincing. The parapsychologist was clearly an actress. The slightly improvisational interaction between the presenters was clearly a scripted attempt at improvisation. I was disappointed, indeed sufficiently so to change the channel and only occasionally dip back into the programme. I remember the press reports over the following days. I couldn't believe they were referring to the programme I had glimpsed. Then Ghostwatch was buried and forgotten.

Then it came back, released on dvd by the BFI. People started to write about it again, reporting that it still had the power to chill. I had to see it again. I watched it twice this week. The strange thing I realised was that despite the poor acting and the occasionally clichéd script, those people who said it retained its power to scare were absolutely right.

Ghostwatch won't make you jump. It won't turn your stomach and it won't make you scream. Ghostwatch will simply unnerve you. It will make you check things that you see from the corner of your eye again. It will make you wonder what that shape in the corner of your room really is, as you struggle to sleep after viewing the show. It will make you ask whether that really is the sound of the central heating pipes expanding, or contracting, or is it something else.

It's true enough that some of the acting is poor, undermining the verisilimitude of the film. One wishes that the script allowed for more spontaneity from the cast. As it is the actors are quite obviously adhering to a script and their attempts at looking genuinely astonished, scared, unnerved by the events are frequently wooden. Probably the most convincing member of the cast is Craig Charles. His performance is light and therefore he appears the most natural. Sarah Greene does very well for the most part, although once strange events begin to occur it is clear that she is acting scared rather than actually being scared. Michael Parkinson is poor, but his part doesn't help. One simply can't believe that an institution such as he could be so openly cold and dismissive to the plight of the family, as he frequently is (he is particularly unsympathetic at the moment the older girl is found covered in scratches).

So what does work? The staggered revelations about the house and family's history are intriguing and eerie, as is the idea that the accumulation of evil over time in the house and the area has led to a manifestation of hateful malevolence. Sound and video effects are put to excellent use. The occupants of the house are subjected to sudden bumps, crashes and, as more secrets of the house are revealed, the awful wailing of cats. The ghostly voices are creepy in the extreme, particularly the inhuman voice played back on the studio tape recorder. What you hear can be far scarier than what you see and the makers of Ghostwatch play on this with great skill.

The link between house and studio begins to deteriorate late in the show. Picture and sound slow down. The link is lost and regained. The sense that something evil has penetrated the broadcast equipment and begun to transmit itself to homes across the UK is brilliantly done. In the studio more and more callers report strange events at their own homes, events that mirror what is happening in the house. Glass breaks, clocks stop, and dogs start barking at the screen. The parapsychologist realises that the BBC transmission has effectively provided the environment for a national séance. Every home tuned into the programme is now primed for supernatural attack. It's a wonderfully apocalyptic idea and one can imagine how disturbing this must have been for those original viewers who bought the idea that the show was live. As it stood the programme was blamed for several women going into premature labour, for 2 boys requiring treatment for post-traumatic stress, and for the tragic suicide of one young man. One can now understand why the BBC blocked the writer's attempts to have a high-frequency noise, calculated to upset viewers' pets, played on the soundtrack during the show's climax. It could have been the first television show in British history to create civic disorder.

I can't recall the last time a British television programme made such a bold attempt to scare. It's surprising considering the wealth of ghost lore we have to draw on in this country (the UK reportedly has more ghosts per square mile than any other place on earth). It's a testament to Ghostwatch that it has since become a fondly regarded piece of that tradition.


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