Thursday, 16 June 2011

"A thing like that, it'll have been suckled"

Round these parts we should all be familiar with the work of the late Nigel Kneale. The various incarnations of Professor Quatermass have been the blueprint for most sci-fi TV ever since, and his 1972 play 'The Stone Tape' is a set text of the hauntologically inclined.

My first exposure came via an episode of the 1976 ITV series 'Beasts', titled 'Baby'. I was aware of it as one of those things that seemed to pop up a lot on nostalgia shows, ladled with prominent fan-love by various members of the League of Gentlemen. Each of them attested to its deep-seated creepiness and eventually I tracked down a copy, in order to test it on my hardened modern sensibilities. After all, I'd seen 'Spiceworld' and lived. I was ready for anything.

So, my flatmate and I hunkered down for the night, preparing ourselves for slow disappointment. And sure it was stagy and shot with the harsh light of many a 70s studio, but bit by bit, something about it seemed to worm under the skin, like splinters from an old floorboard.
The plot concerns a young couple who have moved to the countryside and are renovating their new home. During the course of this, they uncover a strange, mummified animal bricked into a wall. A village local - a great, pipe-smoking rube straight from central casting - puts about the theory that what they've found might have been a familiar, that it might have been made for malicious ends. From there, things get progressively strange: shadows move, tempers fray and - a perennial omen in these sorts of things - the family moggy snuffs it.

It's a slow burner with a kicker of an ending. For those of you who like your presents spoiled, the last three minutes pan out below. Needless to say, when the screaming stopped and the credits rolled, both I and my flatmate were left speechless. Our teas were empty and the biscuit tray was bare, but neither of us dared venture into the dark for supplies.

Who knew what could be waiting?

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