True Horror is a 3 episode series recently aired on Chanel 4 and available to view on their online platform. On paper it’s a pretty safe bet. Round up some true supernatural accounts from the people that actually experienced them, then create a docudrama around the testimony supplied. Mix the testimony with the filmed version of said events and away you go. If it sounds familiar it’s because our friends Stateside have being doing this kind of thing for a long time now. However here in the UK, we have quite a good track record of home spun spooky yarns, so I approached the trio of tales with eagerness.
Unfortunately I’m afraid to announce that this entry into the genre is a bit of a let down. The first of the 3 tales is set at a haunted farmhouse where the family are terrorised by scary deformed ghosts and mysterious lights that send the electricity bills through the roof. As the husband, a struggling artist, falls further into madness, the whole thing feels like a made for TV version of The Amityville Horror. Punctuated by needless jump scares and loud screams and bangs, the fear that must have been felt by those involved comes across as cheap scare tactics to appease the viewers that have tuned in looking for frights.
The first episode sets the tone of the short run, as story two ‘Ghost In The Wall’, follows a similar path. We seem to have stumbled into The Enfield Haunting style of domestic ghost story with a young mother that is locked in a battle with the ghost of her dead father in law that is intent on hanging round the house and terrifying her children. However the conflicting narrative about the ghosts intentions from the real life family members muddies the water here so by the end of the story we are still really none the wiser about what was going on.
The third story ‘Terror In The Woods’ finds us in Blair Witch territory with two young friends spending the night in a haunted forest and bringing back a spirit that manifests itself at a seance run by the paranormal investigation team that is called in to help out. It may be unfair to dismiss the story so flippantly, but it’s well established that the friends have a history of pranking each other and making their own video skits, making it hard to believe their accounts of what happened. The third story is the weakest, with literally very little meat on its bones, and it shows in the finished product as the film makers again resort to jump scares and banging doors to get the point across.
It’s a shame that this series was given this treatment. I would have thought that a new horror anthology series would have been a hit on TV but the true story approach was most probably a mistake. All three stories are cliched and trope ridden, yet it’s very obvious that talent wise everything else was on point. The acting and production on each episode is just fine and I wonder what the team involved could have done with original material from talented writers. Let’s face it, Channel 4 had a huge hit with Black Mirror, a 3 episode anthology series, and may have struck it lucky again with a different genre, but True Horror missed the mark completely. A missed opportunity and one Netflix probably won’t buy.