The Stone Tape (1972)
Here at The Horror Hothouse Review we have so far have kept things pretty contemporary. Some may berate us for this, “new horror is crap” some might yell “give us some of the old stuff” others concur. Well get you’re laughing gear around this…
The Stone tape was a made for TV movie written by the legendary Nigel Kneale (responsible for bringing Quatermass into our lives and homes). With a typical combination of horror and sci-fi the story concerns a team of scientists led by Peter Brock (Michael Bryant) who move into their new research centre, a renovated Victorian house with a reputation amongst the locals for being haunted. The electronics company they represent is commissioning them to discover a new medium for recording sound to keep up with their competitors. When Peter discovers one of the rooms in the house has been left untouched due to the builder’s refusal to work in there he is furious. Jill Greenley (Jane Asher) who is a computer programmer is alone in the derelict room when she sees a hazy image of a woman falling and blood curling screams. After experiencing the phenomena themselves the rest of the gang hypothesise that the stone in the room has somehow preserved a print of this woman’s demise. The team become increasingly consumed with discovering the secret of the stone tape and start to lose a grip on their sanity until a replacement research team usurps the facility. Jill is determined to finish what she started resulting in a shocking discovery of the nature of the tape and a gripping climax that will leave you cold.
I first heard about this from a TV countdown 100 Greatest Scary Moments and something resonated with me, much like the stone tape itself. It was eventually years later that I finally got to see it and I tried not to get my hopes up as the credentials of TV movie are not usually ones that can be held in very high regard. Once the flow of the story started I had nothing to worry about.
The cast is strong and unified, but for me the standout was a delightfully hammy performance from Jane Asher (with real swooning, stumbling and gasping for breath as every horror unfolds). She captures such a wonderful essence that it’s hard to take your eyes off her and somehow she manages to make you fall in love with the character and her insatiable desire to discover the mystery behind the phenomena. She play a wonderful dual role within the film; the traditional feeble woman with screams aplenty calling for a male saviour and then another women but this one powerful, in control and a match for any of the men that surround her.
This refreshingly original film is years ahead of its time and one that you’d be a fool to disregard. It has matured beautifully since the early and still maintains a hefty clout even all these years later. A really master class in horror by a real genius and I for one couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
I don’t a trailer for you but here is a clip that gives you a taster of the film.
Video sourced from Youtube.