SPOILER WARNING: This review will give away all of the story behind this film.
Ghostwatch was shown on BBC TV 20 years ago today. I am not 20 years old (I am four) so I didn't see it when it was first on TV, I saw it on DVD on Monday.
I had heard it was very scary, so I watched it with my friend Scary Cat, who is the bravest cat ever and is not scared of anything (not even Hoover)!
When it was first on TV, some mannys thought it was a real live TV programme, but it wasn't. But it does go out of its way to look like a live TV programme from the early 1990s - it stars Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene, Craig Charles and Mike Smith, all famous mannys who played characters with the same names as them to blur the lines between what is real and what is made up.
Also it is full of the trappings of live TV of that era, such as the way the mannys in the TV studio have to pick up 'phones to speak to callers and there is no internets at all!
The reason it is scary is because there is a ghost, and the mannys are looking for it (that is why it is called Ghostwatch). The ghost is in a house, where it has a job haunting the mannys that live there. Sarah Greene goes in the house while Craig Charles is outside on the street. Michael Parkinson and Mike Smith are in their TV studio, taking 'phone calls from other mannys and trying to find out about the ghost.
For time to time the ghost appears and he is very scary, because he always appears in dark and sinister places when nobody expects him. A lot of the time he is invisible and that makes him even scarier because you don't know where he is or what he is doing. He also has a scary voice. The littlest manny says the ghost's name is Pipes.
Scary Cat says he's not scared of Pipes, because Pipes was once a manny who was nomed by cats. Yes, the heroes of Ghostwatch are really cats! The clever thing is that, although we hear cats mewing at times, we don't see the cats when they come to help the mannys defeat Pipes. Maybe they are ghost cats?
Cats don't normally nom mannys, but if it is a bad manny who turns into an evil ghost then I think it is OK. It turns out Pipes stays behind the scariest door* ever, which was where he got nomed by the cats. The mannys had it boarded up but Sarah opens it and she gets pulled inside. We can hear cats mewing as they come to the rescue, but it is kind of a cliffhanger ending as we don't see if Sarah escapes.
Instead we see Pipes taking over the TV studio where Michael Parkinson is, because Pipes has become a ghost in a machine. All the mannys watching him on TV gave him the magic power to take over TV. Maybe now you are reading about him on the internets Pipes will take over your internets? If he does then just look at pictures of cats until he goes away.
In conclusion Ghostwatch is a great piece of archive television. It loses a lot of its power as a horror story when removed from the TV landscape in which it was originally made and shown, though that very power got its makers into a lot of trouble at the time. Even so, it is still a remarkable, and possibly unique, example of its genre and consequently I would recommend it to fans of both archive television and ghost stories.
* Scary Cat says he is not scared of the scary door. We have a scary door in our flat; it is the door to the cupboard where Hoover stays!