Ghostwatch (1992)
March 3, 2022 9:21 PM - Subscribe

For Halloween 1992, the BBC decides to broadcast an investigation into the supernatural, hosted by TV chat-show legend Michael Parkinson. Parky (assisted by Mike Smith, Sarah Greene & Craig Charles) and a camera crew attempt to discover the truth behind the most haunted house in Britain. This ground-breaking live television experiment does not go as planned, however.

A famous/infamous mockumentary from 1992, the program was so convincing, it reportedly terrified many.

Currently available streaming on the Internet Archive.
posted by DirtyOldTown (12 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This blew me away. Aesthetically, it is so absolutely indistinguishable from dry British reality specials of the time that when it starts to turn the screws, you will never see it coming.

I checked this out after it was recommended by the Evolution of Horror podcast.

This is superlative and ingenious. Like Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio play by way of The Blair Witch Project.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:26 PM on March 3, 2022

It's just Pipes.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:47 PM on March 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

I love Ghostwatch & I watch it every Halloween. I spent a day being obsessed with it and reading everything I could about it before I watched it. And then once I watched it, I was not disappointed. I spend way too much time telling other people to watch it.

It is such a slow burn until it escalates so quickly. I can only imagine how terrifying this was to watch "live." (I own it on DVD & I've bought the DVD for other people .)

I don't know how much it hangs together in the end when I really think about it but it definitely has such a great dread about it.
posted by edencosmic at 7:13 AM on March 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Bonus content:

The BBC's Most Controversial TV Show - Inside A Mind (~20 minute documentary)

Ghostwatch: behind the Curtains (YT Channel with lots of related content)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:01 PM on March 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Tremendously spooky and a delightful forerunner to the horror mockumentary and found footage genres that would really get going less than a decade later!

There's a bit of transphobia that's very "wait, really?!" but thankfully it's over pretty quick.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:50 PM on March 4, 2022

If you enjoyed this and if you happen to be in one of the countries where Historia de lo Oculto is available for streaming (which sadly, do not include the US) or you have the requisite quasi-legal skills to find it, please please please give that a watch, as it is a terrific follow-up.

It's an Argentinian film from a year or two ago where the staff of an investigative journalism show, upon finding out it has been cancelled, decide to spend their last night on the air exposing corruption in the government. The thing is, while this mission starts off a la All the President's Men, it takes a hard turn into Lovecraft territory.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:06 PM on March 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

I watched this once, twenty hears ago, and I still haven't worked up the nerve to watch it again.
posted by detachd at 8:47 PM on March 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Hell yes. As a horror fan outside the UK, I've heard about this film for years and never been able to actually find it to watch. I am extremely grateful for the link.

Fuckin' scary and extremely on point with the realism, from the hokey punching-up-a-nothing-story playing around in-studio to the textbook "real" poltergeist phenomena, i.e. all the ones explained by human intervention or coincidental noises. I also loved how the ghost was lurking in so many background shots and never actually spotted by anyone in the scene.

RE: transphobia

I thought the bit about wearing dresses was a callback to the idea of the older ghost, the child-minder who drowned the children in copper tubs, so that narratively it's not clear if Pipes is the disturbed nephew or the murderous babysitter or both and more. I mean, it was 1992, so it was probably also fairly transphobic just by default, but it wasn't necessarily out of nowhere, and I don't think the bit about having a "woman inside him taking him over" was meant to be read in a particularly trans way.
posted by Scattercat at 2:20 AM on March 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

That was the conclusion I came to as well, scattercat.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:35 AM on March 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

I love this thing! Pipes...
posted by Don Pepino at 10:35 AM on March 5, 2022

I also loved how the ghost was lurking in so many background shots and never actually spotted by anyone in the scene.

This gives it so much of the oomph. The 'broadcast format' letting the camera just capture something weird, without comment, without music, without anyone realizing. Brr.

The bit at the end where the broadcast itself -the viewer's participation- calling the thing into being - is also well placed.

The author wrote a follow story called 31/10, if one can find it.
posted by StarkRoads at 12:38 PM on March 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

See also this Inside No. 9 episode. I was watching it live on the night and genuinely thought the BBC was having technical difficulties.
posted by Paul Slade at 7:34 AM on March 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

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