• Ghostwatch

    Released by: BFI
    Released on: November 25, 2002.
    Director: Lesley Manning
    Cast: Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene, Craig Charles, Mike Smith
    Year: 1992
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    The Movie:

    An interesting chapter in the history of the BBC, Ghostwatch is oft times referred to as the British War of the Worlds. The program was broadcast live on Halloween back in 1992 and despite advance press on the feature confirming that it was indeed a work of fiction, it set a large portion of the British viewing public into a fit.

    The premise of the thing is pretty sneaky – take a handful of recognizable and respected British news personalities, set some of them up in the studio and send a team out to a haunted house to investigate the supposed hauntings that occur there on a regular basis. Broadcast the entire thing over live TV and unleash some extremely frightening imagery onto an unsuspecting and gullible populace.

    Pamela Early lives in the home with her two daughters, Kim and Suzanne. For quite a while not they’ve been living with a malicious poltergeist who they’ve named ‘pipes’ who has a tendency to not only make a lot of noise in the middle of the night, but cause cats to wail, and one of the daughters to wake up with some pretty nasty scratches all over her face and neck.

    The Early’s have gone to the press before but the tabloids blew it all into a joke at the family’s expense, so they got involved with a paranormal researcher who get the BBC involved and of course, this is how Ghostwatch came to be.

    Michael Parkinson, an actual BBC newsman, is the host of the show and he interacts with some call-ins and the aforementioned paranormal researcher who explains the details behind the haunting. The reporters sent on the scene are Craig Charles, who interviews some of the people in the neighborhood, and Sarah Greene, who goes inside the house with the family and experiences the activity first hand.

    Considering the big deal around the original broadcast was that this was coming to you live (or at least you’d have the illusion that it was), Ghostwatch is still an exceptionally well done piece that is not only interesting but oft times really friggin’ scary. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but man, there is some seriously messed up stuff going on in this film and while you sort of see it coming and it’s more than a little bit predictable, it still grabs you and gets under your skin.

    It’s very well put together, and it’s directed in such a manner that it keeps up at a very fast pace. There are all sorts of great moments that foreshadow the conclusion and if you pay close attention to details, you’ll be rewarded with some nice little scares in the latter half of the production.

    For an American audience it may not be as convincing as on this side of the pound we’re less likely to be familiar with some of the faces involved, but it’s still very easy to suspend your disbelief for ninety-minutes. Watch this one with the volume up at a decent level and the lights completely off for maximum effect.


    Ghostwatch looks pretty sharp with decent colors, but there is a fine layer of grain over the entire thing, likely due to something inherent in the video source. Overall though, this is a very nice transfer that is free of compression artifacts or edge enhancement and is quite pleasing to the eye.

    There are a few spots where the audio intentionally sounds pretty bad, but overall the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is pretty coherent. I found that initially I had to turn the volume up a bit on my receiver, more so than I normally would, but once that was done the audio was fine.

    The highlight of the supplemental material is a running commentary with director Lesley Manning who is joined by producer Ruth Baumgarten and writer Stephen Volk. There’s a lot of great information divulged in the track, which contains almost no dead air and keeps moving at a brisk pace, covering a lot of ground. Not only is the pre-production covered but they also delve into problems that they had with the BBC trying to get it made as well as the lasting appeal of the movie. Well worth a listen.

    The disc also contains a stills gallery with narration overtop from Manning, which gives us a nice overview of the amount of preparation that went into preparing for the broadcast. We’re treated to a wealth of production drawings, script pages and other materials and this makes for an interesting companion piece to the movie.

    Finally, there are some DVD-Rom features including the original scripts, an alternate ending (that wasn’t shot) and a short story by Stephen Volk. Also worth noting – pay close attention to the menus.

    The Final Word:

    Ghostwatch comes highly recommended. Turn off your lights, crank up the sound, and watch it with a friend or family member for maximum high quality scares!
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      This made a profound impression on me when it was first broadcast. When I think about those brief glimpses of 'Pipes', my hair still stands on end and I get the chills.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Btw, check this out:

    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I watched it again recently and was kinda bored by it...once you know what's going on, it's not so great, but man, it creeped me out the first time I saw it...with the boarder revelation...man!