Horror seems uniquely suited for an anthology series. Since horror, unlike many other genres, relies heavily on big reveals at the end it becomes difficult to keep up the thrills and chills for more than an hour or two. An anthology allows you to tell lots of different stories and (potentially) scare the hell out of everyone time and time again while likewise retaining a certain amount of name recognition under one title. It makes sense then that TV and film producers would be interested in telling unrelated tales underneath a single banner.
Certainly this bares itself out with numerous horror anthologies throughout TV and movie history. From early – not necessarily strictly horror, but still frightening – shows like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents to a slew of early ’90s shows like Tales from the Crypt and Freddy’s Nightmares to more modern attempts such as American Horror Story and Masters of Horror. Time and time again, horror anthologies have attempted to fill our screens with plenty of screams.
All to very mixed results. Television series often are hindered by the censors. Horror movies tend to rely pretty heavily on violence, gore, sex, and nudity; all of which are shunned by censors. This makes it much more difficult to scare the audience. To be successful, a horror show needs to heighten our fear in other ways. Some of the best either trick us into believing we see more gore than we actually do with quick cuts, reaction shots, and the like, or they ratchet up the suspense with mysteries of the unknown.
Unfortunately, Chiller fails in pretty much every category. It isn’t that series is particularly awful, but it never does anything that is in anyway memorable. And considering the talent involved (there are lots of fairly famous British stars before they were stars) scattered throughout one can’t help but be immensely let down.
The series ran for five 60 minute episodes on ITV in the UK in 1995. This is the first time its been released on DVD for US audiences. The five stories are as follows:
“Prophecy”: A group of friends hold a seance where each of them receive a prophecy. Five years later, the prophecies begin to come true and one by one they keep getting accidentally killed. One of the girls, Frannie (Sophie Ward), begins having dreams about the others’ demise before the accidents occur. It all may have something to do with her boyfriend’s little boy.
The series got off to a very slow start with this one. It barely held my attention as it was both rather silly and dull.
“Toby”: Ray (Martin Clunes) and Louise (Serena Gordon) tragically lose their unborn baby in a car accident. She later becomes pregnant with a phantom baby that haunts her womb.
Much better than the first episode this one scores points for being totally off the wall and a bit crazy (though still not particularly scary).
“Here Comes the Mirror Man”: A homeless man (John Simm) becomes a murdering psychopath due to the influence of a demon.
Not even the great John Simm can save this lame plot with poor direction.
“The Man Who Didn’t Believe in Ghosts”: Richard Cramer (Peter Egan) is a professional ghost de-bunker so of course he moves into a haunted house and eventually becomes a ghost himself. I’d warn you of that spoiler if it wasn’t so painfully obvious from the beginning.
I actually liked this one the best. They do a decent job of setting a nice “haunted house” mood and create a few good chills.
“Number Six”: Homicide Detective Jack Taylor (Kevin McNally) investigates a series of child murders that lead him to an ancient site and Druids.
Yep, Druids. Nothing scares me more than kid killers and freaking Druids.
Chiller: The Complete Television Series is a two-disk set with decent-looking video, okay-sounding audio, and no special features. There are a few fun moments to be had by hardcore horror enthusiasts, but mostly it’s completely forgettable and not worth your time.