Chiller: The Complete Television Series DVD Review
Written by Ted McCarthy
DVD released by Synapse Films
Directed by Bob Mahoney, Lawrence Gordon Clark and Rob Walker
Written by Stephen Gallagher, Anthony Horowitz and Glenn Chandler
1995, Region 1 (NTSC), 265 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on DATE
Nigel Havers as Oliver Halkin (1 episode)
Phyllis Logan as Anna Spalinsky (1 episode)
Kevin McNalley as Jack Taylor (1 episode)
John Simm as Gary Kingston (1 episode)
As I’ve said before on SlasherCast, my weekly horror roundtable podcast, I’m a big fan of anthologies (be sure to click the link to the cast below – I’m also a big fan of shameless self-promotion). From reading Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew and Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, to gorging myself on syndicated eps of The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt, as well as classic flicks like Creepshow and most recently, V/H/S, I enjoy having a ready supply of different stories at my fingertips. This is not only because I love a good short story, but because I know that if one sucks, I can at least look forward to a (hopefully) better one right after. Back in the mid-'90s, the Brits tried their hand at the TV anthology in the form of their series Chiller, which has been newly released on DVD by Synapse Films.
Taking its cues less from the gruesome glee of Tales from the Crypt and more from the American reboot of the only slightly better The Outer Limits that aired around the same time, the understandably short-lived series presented five one-hour episodes revolving around regular people caught up in strange, supernatural situations. But whereas you could almost always count on a solid, original story with a great moralistic twist from The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt (as well as some fun bloodletting in the latter), Chiller’s stories and their execution come off as lazy and uninspired. Since there are only five episodes, I’ll quickly touch on each one.
Episode 1, “Prophecy”: A group of hippie friends hold a séance in a café basement, then act surprised when the prophecies of their deaths start to come true five years later.
Episode 2, “Toby”: This is the strongest and creepiest episode, but unfortunately, that really ain’t saying much. After a couple loses their unborn baby in a car accident, they get pregnant again. But the woman is haunted by the ghost of her unborn child that doesn’t want her to give birth.
Episode 3, “Here Comes the Mirror Man”: A social worker tries to help a young homeless man who is urged to kill by his malevolent and bug-eyed imaginary friend.
Episode 4, “The Man Who Didn’t Believe In Ghosts”: In this, the winner for worst episode title, a writer and debunker of the paranormal moves his family into a ridiculously huge mansion that’s supposedly haunted (natch) by the ghost of the previous owner’s dead wife.
Episode 5, “Number Six”: A policeman tries to find a child murderer that strikes (gasp!) every full moon, before his migraine-inducing annoying son becomes the next victim.
Aside from the hack acting and poor writing, the biggest misstep with Chiller is that its episodes are just too long to sustain their stories. Each tale has the necessary elements to create a quick, simple 24-minute (allowing for commercials) episode. People getting picked off after an ill-advised séance? The cynical skeptic moving into a haunted house? A killer striking on a full moon? We’ve seen all this stuff before, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get slickly repackaged and enjoyed by someone looking for a cheap, throwaway thrill who’s got a half hour to kill. Instead, each episode is filled with unnecessary dramatic filler that’s supposed to flesh out its characters but is just boring. In at least three of the five episodes, this consists of overacted scenes of marital discord, with husband and wife shouting at each other before one storms out. Other times, they’ll take what amounts to one effective creepy moment and just repeat it four or five times. In “The Man Who Didn’t Believe In Ghosts,” we see shadows under the doors and figures pass by windows in the middle of the night. In “Toby,” the characters repeatedly walk into a nursery and see a cradle rocking with no baby in it. Sure, they’re cheap scares, but forgivable if used sparingly. Except they’re not, and just make you want to shout, “Okay, I get it!”
It’s easy to see why this series got the axe (more than I can say for any of the characters…pssh, lame) after only five episodes. Any genre fan worth his or her salt would do well to leave this one in obscurity, especially when you can seek out those older anthologies that tell much more compelling stories much more effectively.
Video and Audio:
The video transfer (presented in full frame, for those who care) doesn’t do this one any favors, and you can definitely tell this was made a while ago.
Audio has nothing noticeably crisp or spectacular, but not much to complain about, either.
None, rather surprisingly.