Friday, November 11, 2011

Vampire Horror!

As well as their Doctor Who releases, AudioGo also do a range of horror CDs, and recently I was sent copies of the two new ones: Vampire Horror! and Ghostly Terror!

Now I love horror, but here we have some of the usual suspects of the genre - basically out of copyright tales from decades ago - revitalised with some modern readers and some limited musical cues. Unfortunately this reliance on the old stories of M R James and others results in some CDs which are antiquated to listen to, and which ultimately disappoint as those tales might have been fine 50 years ago, but to a modern audience, they feel very dated.

First up on Vampire Horror! is  The Vampyre by Doctor Polidori. History tells us that this was the tale written by John Polidori during (or after) that same Geneva holiday with Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wolstonecroft Shelley which resulted in Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus  being written. Unfortunately Polidori's tale has not stood the test of time. It is long winded and hard to follow, and the reader in this case (Bill Wallis) has a voice which is either too indistinct to hear or too loud resulting in much twiddling of the volume control. It's also unfortunately the only one on this set which actually features a vampire ...

Next up is the best one, M R James' Wailing Well, read by Anthony Head. Head is a brilliant reader and the story is also rather good, setting the scene well in a boys' school, and following the exploits of a group as they decide to visit an old well despite being warned away. For there is something else there, which is capturing the souls of those who get to close.

The third story is For the Blood is the Life by F Marion Crawford, and this is a strangely constructed story within a story within a story, and thus tends not to work too well as an audio piece. Basically a grave barrow has a ghost/phantom laying on top of it which can drain the energy from those who stand on the grave in moonlight (hence the vampire theme). The reader here is John Telfer, and he does a good job with it.

Finally we have An Episode of Cathedral History, another from M R James, read by Cornelius Garrett. This is another story within a story piece, this time about a cathedral and what is found when the altar is dismantled. The tale features some sort of creature, which is very similar in description to the one in Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book (which features on the Ghostly Terror! CDs) and so it's a little hard to see how this fits as a vampire tale.

As a CD set, Vampire Horror! is very nicely produced, and the stories are well read (with the exception of the first). It's just a shame that they are so dated and in the case of James at least, well known and easily available, and that they don't actually feature vampires ...


Steve said...

So what was on Ghostly Terror?

David said...

Not finished listening to that one yet Steve, but the content is Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook by MR James, The Beast With Five Fingers by WF Harvey, and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. As with this, they are well read and enjoyable, but the same main criticism - all are old tales and perhaps lack bite for today's market.