Recently I reviewed the Hammer House of Horror series release from Synapse. It was a British horror anthology series from the legendary Hammer Studios that aired on television in the 80s. Chiller is another such horror anthology series that aired in 1995 and contains five episodes, each approximately 52 minutes long. Because Synapse has released both series relatively close together, and because they’re so similar in nature, it’s hard not to make comparisons between the two. First, let’s do a rundown of the episodes in this series.
Episode 1: Prophecy
A group of friends goes down into the basement of one of the groups’ family restaraunt to hold a seance and talk to the spirits. During this seance, a spirit gives one of them a prophecy, while the others look on. Years later, death and misfortune befall the six one at a time, and the key to the mystery is a boy named Edward who is a distant relative of the 2nd Marquis, who in life was a sadistic devil worshipper and a pedophile. Now Francesca, the last girl who hasn’t had tragedy befall her from that night, is dating Edward’s father, and must find a way to stop the evil from using Edward to regain a foothold in this world.
Episode 2: Toby
A pregnant woman, trying to avoid running over some cats, crashes her car and loses her baby. Later, after she’s recovered, she becomes pregnant again, only it’s a phantom pregnancy…or so they thought. Soon the ghost of their dead baby Toby is haunting their home, and when she becomes pregnant once more for real, Toby doesn’t want the competition, and tries to kill the unborn baby.
Episode 3: Here Comes the Mirror Man
A mentally disturbed man named Gary is haunted by a demon called Michael who insists that they live in isolation, but when a social worker checks up on him, Michael insists that he kill her. After her death, a new, rather attractive social worker takes over, Gary becomes smitten with her, and after Michael tells him to kill her, Gary becomes torn between his feelings and his compulsion to obey his demonic companion.
Episode 4: The Man Who Didn’t Believe in Ghosts
A professional skeptic and ghost debunker has a stroke while doing a television interview, and after he recovers, he and his wife buy a mansion from a man whose wife died accidentally there, after which, he went bankrupt and had to sell the place. Now the wife’s spirit is haunting them, but is it really her, or is there something more sinister going on?
Episode 5: Number Six
There’s a child killer on the loose, and five children have already been murdered, one on each of the five previous full moons, and the police still haven’t got a clue who’s doing it. The clues mostly come in the form of drawings from children, the fact that they’re killed and left under oak trees, and some information that a police investigator’s girlfriend, his son’s teacher, gives him about the Druidic things they found when they did an expansion of the school. Now it’s up to the inspector to solve the mystery and catch the killer, before another child dies, because number six, unbeknownst to him, happens to be his son.
Now, while I enjoyed almost all of the Hammer episodes from the Hammer House of Horror release, this series, while similar in nature, fell very much short in comparison with the Hammer works. Episode one was best of the lot by far. The story worked quite well and was very intense. It was a bit confusing with the sudden jump forward in time after the seance, but once you get what’s going on, the story is just excellent. Unfortunately, after that, the whole series just goes limp, finishing horribly with the final story, which I’ll talk about in a moment.
Episodes two, three and four were each relatively decent. Just because they don’t measure up to the Hammer series, or to the first episode of this series, doesn’t mean they’re bad, it just means they’re not as good. Each of the three is quite good in their own ways, while falling flat in others. To go into the specifics of each would be giving away too much of the stories and take some of the mystery out of them, so I don’t want to say too much. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t hating life while I was watching them, nor was I reaching for the fast forward button.
Now, the last story in the series, episode five, just…I don’t know. The mystery part of it was good, but the ending was utterly stupid and really just disappointing. It was a very poor way to end the series unfortunately. The story itself was ok I suppose, but the ending was just so poorly written as to leave you feeling, almost angry at how stupid it was.
The series itself looks visually quite noisy. I don’t know if that was because of cleanup work during the mastering process, or if they just looked that noisy to start with, but there is a noticeable amount of noise in the visuals. As you watch, you stop thinking about it, because it’s fairly consistent throughout and mentally, it just all sort of becomes part of the look of the shows, but every once in a while it’ll catch your eye and you’ll think about how noisy the visuals look. It’s not horrible by any means, but it is noticeable.
The series, taken on its own merit is quite passable as a horror anthology. It only really fails when you compare it to something that is superior in virtually every way, like the Hammer series. Taken as a pair however, they will provide you with many hours worth of some really entertaining horror. I would suggest however, if you’re going to get only one of the two, get the Hammer House of Horror series. If you want to see the Chiller series however, then I would suggest getting both, as they will compliment each other quite well.
If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out its page on the Synapse Films website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get it from Amazon here, or from any of the other usual outlets.