What is Chiller? It’s such a generic title it could be a lot of things. Off the top of my head, without looking at the tape, I’d say it was an ITV anthology horror show, maybe written by Stephen Gallagher. Let’s fire up the VCR and find out.
Well it’s a good start. This is the first shot in the titles.
There’s a good opening. A woman is taking a life class – featuring a male model with the hairiest arse you can imagine – well done, ITV – who gets a phone call – there’s a regular telephone right next to her, so maybe she’s the teacher, but she’s painting too. Her husband, Martin Clunes, is reminding her not to be late home.
Cut to her travelling home. Creepy music, and a cat walks across the road, followed by a frankly unconvincing crash scene. But it’s got some energy. Cut to the woman being treated in the ER. Cut to her recovering in bed with hubby Clunes at her side. When she wakes up, he turns the recordings of whalesong off and breaks the news that their unborn baby didn’t survive the crash.
All of this takes up less than two and a half minutes of screen time. It’s very economical storytelling.
The episode is Toby by Glenn Chandler. (I checked the series credits, and Stephen Gallagher write two other episodes, so I was right, really.
They move in to a new house, presumably wanting a new start. One of the rooms is a nursery. At first they’re finding it hard to cope with the loss of the child.
Then, she discovers she’s pregnant again. He’s sceptical about all the ‘alternative childbirth’ stuff she was into. That’s probably where the whalesong came from.
Things are happier now. But when the 16 week scan comes around, the sonographer can’t find a baby. “You’re just not pregnant my love” says the nurse. “Then what can I feel kicking?”
I can’t help feeling that Martin Clunes isn’t being very sensitive. When she says “If I hadn’t lost the baby, he’d be due now.” he replies “Well you did lose the baby.” I know her phantom pregnancy would be rather disturbing, but I’m not sure that level of tactlessness is helpful.
But then she starts to experience labor pains, and we have one of the scariest delivery scenes since Cronenberg’s The Fly. She’s screaming in pain, looking terrified (on her back, of course, as are all labouring women in TV, despite that being the least helpful position to be in), in a darkened delivery room, with the doctors shouting at her without the least sense of reassurance. In the end “There’s nothing. Just blood” says the doctor, annoyed at having his time wasted, despite her just having experienced a unique medical event.
That night, she wakes up to the sound of a baby crying. She goes to the nursery to find the crib rocking, but empty.
The old boyfriend of her mad old neighbour consoles her, but turns out to be a medium, and starts passing messages from her dead son.
She still thinks she must be having a breakdown of some sort, but then, in another creepy scene, hubby Martin finds her nursing her invisible baby. She’s now fully accepted the reality of her ghost baby, but Clunes still thinks it’s a breakdown, and gets her to go to a clinic. While she’s away he burns the things from the nursery, and when she comes back he says they should “make a baby. A real baby.”
After the adverts, she is pregnant, for real this time. I like a happy ending. Only Toby is still making noises in the house. And when she goes to investigate, he makes a model train fly into her stomach.
The doctors think she’s self harming, so she panics, packs a bag, and gets into the car. And because symmetry is always important in these stories, it ends in tragedy, in a much more convincing car crash this time.
Not a bad story. Even Martin Clunes’ lack of empathy and support isn’t unrealistic, just disappointing, and from a story point of view serves to isolate his wife further. And if the whole film is seen from her point of view, we could just be seeing her interpretation of how people are behaving.
The next episode is Here Comes The Mirror Man, this time it is written by Stephen Gallagher, and I presume it’s based on the Human League song of the same name.
It stars Phyllis Logan and John Simm.
he plays a young man living rough in an abandoned church. When his social worker tracks him down, he secretly follows her and pushes her under a lorry, under the baleful influence of the man in the mirror, played by Paul Reynolds off of Press Gang.
Phyllis Logan is the social worker who picks up the dead colleague’s cases, and makes contact with Simm. This makes the Mirror Man jealous. Logan is suspended from work after another case goes bad, and gets a bit disturbed.
Mark Arden plays her former boyfriend, a policeman.
Simm has developed a dangerous crush on Logan, and kidnaps her.
SIMM If it wasn't for the murders, and all the psychiatric problems, me breaking into your house, bringing you here and everything, do you think... do you think you could've taken to me at all?
Somehow Policeman Mark tracks her down, when Simm takes her to a derilict property out in the middle of nowhere, wearing a deeply unflattering beige duffel coat, possibly as a disguise, although he keeps it on after they’ve caught Simm. And Simm has been forsaken by his Mirror Man, who in the last shot clearly now has designs on Logan.
The next episode opens on a dark and stormy night. A woman is frightened by something we can’t see, runs to the top of the big house, trips on an electrical cable and falls through a glass ceiling. Nice stunt work.
Cut to Peter Egan talking to Angela Rippon about how ghosts just aren’t real.
This episode is The Man Who Didn’t Believe in Ghosts by Anthony Horowitz, creator of Crime Traveller.
Just after the interview, Egan suffers a stroke. Then he and his family move house. They meet the former owner of the house, Peter Walker, who pointedly tells them that the building society now owns the house. He also does odd jobs, so he’s at the house occasionally, which is awkward. Egan’s wife Sophie even invites him to their housewarming dinner.
Sophie has a close shave when a chandelier falls from the ceiling and almost lands on her in the bath. And during the dinner party, after Egan does a pretend ghostly encounter with a floating wine glass there’s an unfortunate culinary disaster.
(Those are maggots, if you can’t make it out.)
Then the dog goes missing. When he visits the police to report it, the local officer tell him that he discovered the former owner’s wife, who was the woman we saw at the start falling through the glass ceiling.
Meanwhile, Sophie is trapped in the house’s cold store. She’s discovered by former owner Peter who takes her upstairs and starts vigorously rubbing her to warm her up. Unfortunately this warms him up far too much, and he starts to rub inappropriately, despite Sophie’s protests.
Egan finds the dog in the pond. Their son is seeing visions of a woman.
But Egan is insistent there’s no such thing as ghosts. And it turns out he’s right. After his son falls from a balcony and is seriously injured, his wife has had enough and takes her son back to London, but Egan stays, wanting to learn more about the supposed haunting.
But then he sees the figure of the woman in the greenhouse – pouring petrol everywhere. It’s Turner, trying to burn the house down, and they both die in the fire.
In a coda, another couple are buying the house. The estate agent mentions the house has a ghost. “But a friendly one.”
Following this episode, there’s News at Ten leading with Tony Blair facing setbacks modernising Labour, and protests over tough new rules for benefit claimants.
After a bit of news, the recording stops, and underneath there’s the very end of an episode of Revelations, devised by Russell T Davies and Antony Wood.
Then there’s an insane trailer for late night programmes.
Then there’s an episode of Big City, presented by Paul Ross and Carolyn Marshall. This really is the lowest of low rent arts programmes. Here’s Marshall coyly censoring one of their murals.
Here’s Paul Ross giving the lowdown on a great nightspot.
After this, there’s an episode from an american sitcom I’d never heard of called The Powers that Be, starring John Forsyth from Dynasty, and created by Marta Kaufmann and David Crane of Friends fame. It features David Hyde Pierce from Frasier.
Recording stops during this episode.
- McVities Chocolate Cookies – Jane Asher
- Ritz Crackers
- trail: Surprise Proposals
- National Lottery Instants
- Lottery Instants
- network Q
- Anchor Spreadable
- Lee Jeans
- Milk Tray
- trail: News at Ten. Marvel at a serious newsgathering organization which illustrates the headline “What were the real benefits of the billions spent on Space” with a clip of the robot aliens from the Cadbury’s Smash adverts.
- trail: European Football
- crinklin’ mini cheddars
- Anchor Spray Cream
- Creme Eggs
- Clairol Nice n Easy
- Vauxhall Corsa – Ruby Wax
- National Lottery Instants
- Special K
- Singapore Airlines
- Bernard Matthews Turkey Breast
- Monster Much
- Milk Tray
- Irn Bru
- Vauxhall Frontera 4×4
- Time Out chocolate bar
- Enigma lager
- trail: News at Ten
- trail: A Village Affair
- Johnson’s pH 5.5
- Wall’s Romantica
- Santa Maria Tacos
- trail: Champion Children
- Clorets – Julie Walters
- Colgate Total
- trail: The Turnaround
- Mercury Minicall
- Bird’s Eye Baker’s Bistro
- Crinklin’ Mini Cheddars
- trail: My Good Friend
- Lee Jeans
- Cadbury’s – Nigel Mansell
- Goodfellas pizza
- Vauxhall Corsa
- Kit Kat