Ghosts and ghouls are on the prowl this weekend, as Halloween approaches on Monday evening, and everyone gets to play ‘Count The Harley Quinn Costumes’ in their nightclub of choice. Yes, it’s time for some grisly fancy dress, far too many sweets, and some kick-arse horror movies – the end of October is upon us.
Of course, TVO is primarily focused on alternative comedy, but a large number of our regulars do love to raid the dressing up box and nearby supplies of corn syrup themselves. If you’re looking for some great Halloween TV and film to savour, then there’s a bevy of deliciously wicked comic horror – and a smattering of all out horror – to choose from that features TVO regulars aplenty.
And while some of it has been lost into the depths of various ethereal archives, we’ve rounded up some of our many favourites that you CAN still see and enjoy below.
Comedy Shorts: Smutch
Sky’s latest entries into their Comedy Shorts range are a series of hair raising entries from some of the UK’s most loved comic voices. Several of these feature cameos from TVO regulars – with Cariad Lloyd selling Ross Noble a demon-infested house in The Catchment, Alex MacQueen playing straight man to Guz Kahn and Sunil Patel in the hilarious Frightbusters and both Ellie White and Arnab Chanda turning up in Jamie Demetriou’s grisly Oh God.
But for our money, the most exciting short of all is Smutch – an affectionate Amicus homage written and directed by and starring Matt Holness that sprinkles a little bit of The Omen into the mix for good measure. Holness plays a middle aged writer who, after pissing off a photographer (Jim Howick) during a photoshoot, also manages to piss off a spirit. By pissing.
Watch Comedy Shorts via NowTV or SkyGo now.
The Mighty Boosh: Nanageddon
Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt do love a good monster. Across three series of The Mighty Boosh they met scaly mermen, drug-addled foxes, randy Yetis and a creature made entirely of Hubba-Bubba Nightmares… not to mention The Hitcher, who may as well be the Devil incarnate, with an eel in every pocket and some solo-polo vision to direct his wicked thumb into your unspeakables.
But for the real spooky flavour, why not revisit Nanageddon, in which Vince
Noir Obsidian Blackbird-McKnight and Howard “The Dark Side Of The” Moon try to impress a pair of goth girls by summoning a demon. The result is a bingo-loving, knitting needle-wielding, bus pass-throwing horror, who shows no mercy as she slaughters all in her path, gathering together an army of Glamour Nanas to destroy the world. And Vince genuinely thought the Occult was good for you…
Colin Hoult: Mr Giggles
Before a project can find an audience, it needs to find a production company willing to bring it to them. And for Colin Hoult, master of the macabre, that’s often been the case – with his sell out live shows leading to three series of his sublime horror-tinged radio series Colin Hoult’s Carnival of Monsters (which, sadly, is currently unavailable) as well as a notable recurring role as vampiric loser Crumb in Being Human.
But Colin’s fellow Nottingham-born creative Andy Parker, hasn’t quite been so lucky. A few years back, he tried very hard to get his horror movie script wot he wrote turned into a film, first by pitching it during Hoult’s sublime Edinburgh show, and later on YouTube. In it, he managed to get inside the head of a killer with a fetish for ‘fuck-off’ knives, as well the minds of his short-lived victims, and the Army trained bloke who can stop Mr Giggles in his tracks. Listen to the pitch, shit yerself, and wonder what might have been…
Mongrels: Kali and the Rickshaw Inferno
Ah, we still miss Mongrels. Put down in the prime of its flea-bitten life, it could be bitchy and downright savage at times, but the gags were hilarious and the characters surprisingly adorable. Its premature cancellation is still one of the biggest mistakes the BBC has ever made, if you ask us…
A good example of Mongrels at its best is the stunning Halloween episode, which had the typical misfortune of not airing until seven days afterwards. In a scene reminiscent of 28 Days Later, Gary (Tony Way) is savaged by randy dogs who want to mate with Destiny (Lucy Montgomery) and left for dead – and upon making it back to the pub, Destiny and the rest of the gang find themselves facing a zombie epidemic until she comes out of heat. The absolute highlight? That’ll be THE Richard O’Brien as a zombified dog, singing a Time Warp-esque ditty entitled Die, Evil Zombies! They really don’t make ’em like this anymore…
Inside No 9: The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge
Just as no horror film season is complete without The Witchfinder General, no TVO Halloween round-up could be complete without The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge. Across their work, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have regularly dealt with the macabre. The League of Gentlemen is an outright cult classic filled with grotesques and horror homages, while their masterpiece Psychoville is 14 episodes of creepy gold, with a Halloween special in the middle for good measure. But both of those shows work best as complete pieces, so while we’d always recommend devouring the lot, if you’re after one solid half hour, standalone story for your Halloween viewing pleasure, then The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge from Inside No. 9 is certainly it.
Reuniting with their The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse co-star (and horror icon) David Warner, this episode of their multi-award winning anthology series features Ruth Sheen as the titular Gadge, accused of witchcraft in a 17th century village. The town magistrate (Warner) has summoned two renowned witch-hunters (Pemberton and Shearsmith) to ascertain her guilt, and other villagers are brought in to testify. Also featuring TVO regulars Paul Kaye and Jim Howick, this is part Witchfinder General, part Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and as we’ve come to expect from Shearsmith and Pemberton, as hilarious as it is chilling.
And if The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge gets you craving more Halloween-appropriate Inside No. 9, we recommend following it up with The Harrowing and Seance Time.
Jackal Films: Brethren
Back in 2010, Alice Lowe and Jacqueline Wright set about making a short film every single month for the whole year. The result was a series of 12 glorious shorts, featuring a huge range of TVO regulars, across a variety of styles (b-movie pastiches, music videos, documentaries and even a full animation), which we often return to with great fondness.
For October, the team naturally went a little spooky. In Brethren, Alice is having coffee with (now megastar) Sharon Horgan, when a pesky insect won’t leave them alone. Alice’s solution to the situation not only horrifies Sharon, but leads to an encounter she will never forget. We’ve always been slightly afraid of Stephen Evans since we saw him in a blue dress…
Fun at the Funeral Parlour: Poltergoost
Before there was BBC Three, there was BBC Choice – a channel hardly anybody ever watched, because initial take-up for digital television was surprisingly slow. Tucked away on this little seen channel back in 2001 and 2002 was an odd creation from the mind of Rhys Thomas, about a funeral home in a small Welsh village, run by a put-upon undertaker and his three idiotic sons. Played with delicious gusto from all concerned, the series starred William Thomas (Torchwood) alongside Rhys Thomas, Alex Lowe and Tony Way, and featured a number of cameo appearances from the likes of Paul Whitehouse, Matt Lucas, Simon Day, Tom Baker, Bill Oddie, Kai Owen, Joanna Scanlan, Mitchell & Webb, Philip Madoc and Anita Dobson – the latter bagging Rhys a job working for her husband’s band into the process.
It’s a truly bonkers show, and never is this more apparent than in the series two episode Poltergoost, in which the boys unwittingly summon the evil sprit of John Merrick during board game night. Gwynne gets sucked into the TV set, Arwell is possessed by the Elephant Man, and the Chapel of Rest becomes a portal vortex to hell. The only man who can save the day is a drunken maverick priest, whose best skill is to know where obscure singles placed in the hit parade. Silly but essential.
Buy Fun at the Funeral Parlour on dvd now.
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace: Skipper the Eyechild
Oh, we know, we could mention every single episode of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace here, and still not be done telling you about how incredible it is. If you’re one of a rare breed of people out there reading this site who hasn’t already seen it, rectify that immediately.
But in the end, while every episode is packed full of amazing gags, we plumped for our favourite, in which Dr Rick Dagless M.D. (played to perfection by Garth Marenghi, or is it Matt Holness?) stumbles upon a giant eye impregnating a man, and decides to adopt the offspring as a replacement for his long lost half-human/half-grasshopper son. Needless to say, it doesn’t end well for everyone, but one day they’ll all meet in Valhalla…
Cardinal Burns: Phil and Jase
We’re very fond of Cardinal Burns here at TVO, and while their brilliant Channel 4 sketch show is no more, we look forward to whatever Seb Cardinal and Dustin Demri-Burns do next. If they decided to revive characters from their sketch series, our personal preference would be the freakish adventures of professional ghost hunters Phil and Jase.
You’ll have to trace their appearances across several episodes, but these two camp paranormal experts travel across the land to study haunted houses (complete with your standard blood dripping walls) and creepy motels (run by cannibalistic inbreds), as well as trying to navigate their way through hectic social lives and bitchy gossip. Always ready with a synth-pop mixtape for the car journey home, and willing to help any handsome young man who may cross their paths, Phil and Jase keep finding themselves in terrifying situations that will haunt your nightmares, whilst also making you guffaw with laughter. Worth seeking out…
If you’ve got time for something a little longer, then why not revisit grisly satirical masterstroke Dead Set from Nathan Barley creator Charlie Brooker. Riz Ahmed (Four Lions) stars alongside Jaime Winstone, Andy Nyman, Liz May Bryce and our very own Kevin Eldon in this tale of a zombie apocalypse coinciding with Big Brother eviction night.
As mankind gets seemingly wiped out, it transpires that one of the safest places to be may just be the Big Brother House, as the living dead meet the braindead contestants who are trying – and mostly failing – to stay alive. Some of the references may have dated in the eight years since this five part mini-series aired, but the sight of a zombified Davina McCall teararsing her way towards the camera will never get old.
Matt Berry Does Ghosts
The former Darkplace star is no stranger to ghosts and ghouls, having worked in London Dungeon prior to his career in comedy. And while these days he’s more likely to be haunting folk with his melodies (including via his brand new album), Matt’s regular comedy output still has touches of the macabre from time to time.
No more so was this the case than in last year’s seminal entry into his documentary series Matt Berry Does. Combing through untold hours of footage, Matt finds out all about the ghosts that make you shit yourself, or even sit up in bed in the 1950s style. She wore a blue anus, indeed.
Watch Matt Berry Does Ghosts via iPlayer now.
A Field in England
The last few years have seen a number of horror-tinged films with TVO connections reach the big screen, including Ben Wheatley‘s sublime Kill List, the blackly comic Sightseers, Steve Oram‘s surrealistic Aaaaaaaah! and most recently Alice Lowe‘s Prevenge and Gareth Tunley‘s The Ghoul. Neither of the latter are on general release yet, so keep your eyes peeled for future screenings… and be ready for their launch in the Spring!
In the meantime, the spookiest of the lot is undoubtably A Field in England – in which a handful of Civil War deserters meet the devil in a field, and lose their minds as well as their souls. Reece Shearsmith, Michael Smiley and Richard Glover make a huge impression as part of an ensemble cast which also includes Julian Barratt, Peter Ferdinando and Ryan Pope, and the whole film was shot by Ben Wheatley and his regular collaborators (including Laurie Rose and Claire Jones) in a meagre 12 days. The result is mind blowing… and audiences are still divided on whether Smiley’s demonic turn as O’Neill or Shearsmith’s tortured transformation into something other in THAT tent scene, are the biggest chills in store.