Psychoville Halloween Special on BBC Two and BBC HD

This is the thing: if Brits are going to be subjected to an unnecessary barrage of Halloween themed events, shops forcing all sort of garish costume tat down their throats and horrible kids kicking their doors down for out-of-date sweets, then the TV people can at least provide a proper line-up of horror based programming instead of the usual weekend nonsense. Showing John Carpenter’s Halloween in the graveyard schedules on BBC Four doesn’t count. Thank the Lord Sugar himself for the existence of Psychoville.

You see, the Psychoville creators/performers (Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith), love horror films and their series managed to blend this interest with the darkest of comedy and a twisting puzzling story. In the special there were plenty of nods to films and novel variations on established character histories for fans to spot, quite rightly with no compensation made for new or casual viewers. They will just have to catch up.

It’s the perfect current TV show that benefits from a Halloween special; focusing on a researcher for the fictitious Dale Winton’s Overnight Ghost Hunt (although Living will no doubt bring this to the screens for the new year) who visits Ravenhill Hospital for an upcoming shoot with a cameraman, with both of them recalling several Halloween stories relating to the protagonists of the show.

Psychoville Halloween Stories

Of course its format of several strands all linked together by scenes of a constant character draws comparisons to The League of Gentlemen’s non-festive horror-inspired Christmas Special, which makes sense given that Pemberton and Shearsmith made up half of that legendary troupe and wear their influences very much on their sleeves. Although this was nowhere near as scary, just more on the disturbing side.

This is especially relevant to the second part in particular with Dawn French as mad midwife Joy (the one who thinks her toy baby is real) and her husband trying to sell their house but her peculiar behaviour and leaving a mess scares off any potential buyers seemed quite innocent enough midway through. There was even a very funny recycling bin scene that was unusually light.

Well, that was until the end when the husband died after tripping on a toy car that was left on the floor, so Joy decided to follow his rules of tidying up by “recycling” his body in the correct bins and turned his head into a pumpkin carving. That in itself was a shocking surprise and an image that’s going to be hard to erase from memory.

Psychoville Halloween and Series 2

It’s established that the writers have almost encyclopaedic knowledge of all things horror and this definitely comes through in the presentation as the whole thing was very creepy and atmospheric, just like the Psychoville series itself, owing much to traditional films and even some newer ones too. To this they wedged in a bit of that handheld shaky cam footage that’s all the rage these days and jokes that genre fans will enjoy (namely Mr Jelly’s summation of Exorcist II).

It’s fair to say that Pemberton and Shearsmith wanted to stay within horror conventions and insert many references but by doing so they relied too much on the unexpected. The final story – about David and his mother – starts off as an interesting car ride with a possible serial killer at the wheel but suddenly turns into An American Werewolf in London for no reason in the last minute.

You forgive them though as this Halloween Special was still good and a lot of fun. Not terribly amusing or frightening by any stretch of the imagination but entertaining nonetheless. The final scenes at the asylum connect to the conclusion of the first series and sets up the next one very nicely by introducing new characters and a mysterious antagonist group interested in the old inmates.

From the trailer it all seems a bit close to Being Human in terms of plot development but we will have to wait and see was Psychoville has in store next year.

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