Christmas is coming, tra la la la la!!! For me this means: giving presents, baking, decorating the house, reading The Hogfather and…lots and lots of ghost stories. Oh yes. For some of you ‘horror’ and ‘Christmas’ might not seem like such a natural pairing, but for those of us with a macabre bent of mind and a fascination with the traditional, pagan and folkloric things of this world THIS is the supernatural festival to top them all. Halloween? Pah! If you are looking for the truly dark time of the year then you need to look to the Yuletide.
Dickens, from whom we northern Europeans have to thank for so many of our Christmas traditions, knew that Christmas was a time for ghosts. M.R. James knew that a roaring log fire on Christmas Eve was the perfect place to sit and spin a ghostly yarn. But let’s go back further. Wassailers weren’t out there in the orchards and the streets to spread Christmas cheer, oh no. They weren’t singing pretty carols. They were banging pots and pans together and yelling at the top of their lungs to frighten the bad spirits away.
Yuletide falls at the darkest point of the year when all the bad spirits stalk the land and the long nights rattle at our windows. In the dark and the cold and the stillness, at the winter solstice when the sun rides low in the sky, we like to be afraid. Very afraid.
And nobly keeping this tradition alive we have Mister Mark Gatis. Have I mentioned that I love Mark Gatis? Not only is he the modern Man in Black, a member of the League of Gentleman, a purveyor of horror and the supernatural – but he also made THE BEST original ghost story of the last 20 years.
No I am not exaggerating. When it comes to horror, I like to complain. I like to nitpick. If you looked up ‘nitpicker’ in the Oxford Horror Dictionary, not only would you find a picture of me but also a footnote written BY me pointing out why the article was crap.
But Crooked House is glorious. Yes. Glorious. It oozes horror, menace and evil. It is full of suspense and genuine terror. I love it. I watch it every year. Since 2008 Christmas would not be Christmas without Crooked House. And you know what? Four years later, and it still scares the bejesus out of me.
And you know what else? I’m not going to tell you a bloody thing about it because I want you – yes YOU – to go and watch it. Preferably on Christmas Eve with all the lights out. This is such a delicious piece of fiction in the haunted house tradition that I PROMISE you will not be disappointed.
Crooked House is the greatest horror story you never heard of. Why? Well because it is an unassuming TV drama produced by the BBC, not a gargantuan blockbuster. And this really in the BBC at its best, because when it comes right down to it, no one does horror and sci-fi like the Beeb. So please BBC, I’m begging you. Do more productions like this. I’m waiting. I may even start writing letters. You have been warned.