Hammer Chillers is a collection of six audio dramas by writers inspired by the Hammer House of Horror and Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense TV series in the 1980s. The audio dramas are part of a diversification of Hammer product following the film company brand’s reboot in 2007. I must admit that this new venture does amuse me given that many of Hammer’s early films were adaptations of popular BBC radio shows (the audio dramas of the day) such as Dick Barton Special Agent (1947) and The Man in Black (1949).
Hammer commissioned top writers like Stephen Volk and Mark Morris for these dramas. Most of them have also worked upon Dr Who in its various forms and this quality shows in both the creativity of the plot and the dialogue. So, just to give you a taste of what you get without saying so much that it spoils your future listening fun, let’s see what you get:
Stephen Gallagher’s The Box is a helicopter crash simulator that’s dropped into the training pool at Wainfleet Maritime College. When some trainees are too scared to return and finish the course, safety instructor Sean Dickens (Con O’Neill) goes down in the box to find out why.
Miles Jupp, a familiar face from the BBC’s Mock the Week, plays Ian Hibbert, a busybody who organises a local clean up campaign in The Fixation written by Mark Morris. When his neighbours fight back, Hibbert discovers that it’s something more than a case of antisocial behaviour.
In comedian Robin Ince’s Sticks and Stones, an internet troll become the conduit for an ancient evil when he stalks a TV talent show singer and his words start to come true. Only he should have been more careful about who and what he wrote about.
Peculiar Crimes Unit detectives, Bryant and May’s creator Christopher Fowler has a British researcher and a Russian telephone engineer stuck in a lift in St Petersburg’s National Archive in The Devil in the Darkness. As if being stuck in a lift isn’t bad enough the basement used to be a KGB torture centre.
Mummy in Paul Magrs’ Spanish Ladies saw dolls’ legs off with a bread knife and knits them flamenco dresses to make novelty loo roll holders. When Mummy discovers her bingo partner (played by Dr Who’s Camille Coduri) is nipping off to Spain with her son a terrible revenge is exacted.
Finally Ghostwatch and Whitstable author Stephen Volk’s Don’t Go There puts a modern spin on Greek mythology when a grieving father discovers exactly what put his son is in a coma in a Greek hospital.
These audio dramas are a very different experience to books or films. They creep right into your imagination largely because of the way that the sound effects and music are layered over the dialogue. The Box and The Devil in the Darkness have a very palpable aura of claustrophobic menace that is particularly chilling. Each individual play ends with a fiendishly clever conclusion that really reminded me more of the Anglia Television show Tales of the Unexpected that ran from 1979 to 1988, than the afore mentioned Hammer series, but nevertheless Hammer Chillers are a lot of fun.
The audio dramas are available either as individual downloads from Hammer Chillers or for those of us who like to hold the product in out grubby little hands as a 4 CD pack with an extra documentary featuring the writers and cast members.
Review by Simon Ball
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