Big Finish Review - Blind Terror: The Gods Of Frost

With Big Finish providing hours of terrific content, based on cult shows like Doctor Who, Blake's 7 and Dark Shadows, it was only a matter of time before they put all that creative talent to producing original stories too. ATA Girl kicked off a whole series of Big Finish originals this March (you can read our review here) and 2018 wraps up the first phase of originals with Blind Terror: The Gods Of Frost.

Released at the end of October, just in time for Halloween, Blind Terror: The Gods Of Frost features Torchwood alum Eve Myles as a new housekeeper to a Victorian household haunted by something lurking in its grounds. This gothic horror story has been written by Guy Adams and directed by Scott Handcock and is available at the Big Finish site here.

Here's the synopsis...

Following the death of her husband, Kathryn Ellis becomes the new housekeeper at Hodder Hall, keen to embark on a bright new future… only, her past won’t let her go just yet, and the ghosts that stalk the village threaten to cut her future short.

The Review...

A warning for some potential spoilers discussed below, for those that have not listened to the story yet...

Blind Terror: Gods of Frost is one story told across six 'episodes', each part unveiling another chilling chapter in the tale of Hodder Hall. This is a terrific piece of gothic horror, Guy Adams' script packed with memorable characters, chilling twists and turns and a steady pace that builds to the horrors of the final chapters. Scott Handcock directs with flair; these is a grim atmosphere throughout, the threat of the encroaching cold and tension as events unfold well paced and gripping. And the performances are utterly absorbing, Eve Myles delivering a role that is both vulnerable and fierce.

The first episode Soul Cake is a creepy, atmospheric introduction to the gothic Hodder Hall through the eyes of Eve Myles' Kathryn Ellis, the new housekeeper. There is plenty of mystery from the start - the sudden disappearance of Kathryn's predecessor sets the chilling tone for the events to come, though some of the more horrific elements are downplayed to start with. The majority of the key players are established, including chirpy cook Dolores Cutler (Kerry Joy Stewart), put upon maid Gloria (Kezrena James) and eccentric young master of the house Isaac Hodder (Joseph Tweedale). Guy Adam's script is a well paced, hinting at strange things to come and then giving a short burst of horror at the end as the drunk, vengeful husband of the previous housekeeper confronts Kathryn and she barely escapes. The snow-covered grounds of the house on Halloween reveal something terrifying, leading to his grizzly demise and hooking the listener for the horrors to come.

The second episode They're Coming continues to build this world, developing the cast of characters and introducing Bethan Rose Young's delightfully manic, shrill Clarissa Hodder. Her madness is unnerving but well performed, the story not yet revealing some of the more disturbing elements of her character. Her brother Isaac meanwhile is presented as a somewhat amiable character, a sort of mad Victorian scientist, working on his experiments and communicating with his dead father from beyond the grave. His connection to Kathryn is nicely established, a chilling foreshadowing for the manner in which their relationship develops. This is perhaps the least memorable of the six stories, but the rich character and world building is well scripted by Adam and directed with flair by Scott Handcock, ahead of the bigger events to come.

Blind Terror: The Gods of Frost only starts to indulge the horror elements fully in the third episode Hodder's Folly as maid Gloria and Clarissa disappear into the grounds as the snow descends upon the hall. The sense of isolation and the deepening cold nicely builds across these stories and becomes a very real danger here as the search for the two women takes place. Young's Clarissa continues to make for a formidable presence, building her snow baby in the throes of a manic stupor and the twisted reveal of Gloria' fate at the end is deeply disturbing, the character's cries to the others a real moment of horror.

This twist builds into the fourth episode The Lord of Misrule, as the true horrors of Hodder Hall are revealed to the central protagonist Kathryn. With Gloria seemingly dismissed as something worthless, the housekeeper finds herself involved in a macabre party as Isaac and Clarissa play host, preparing a feast for the staff as the snow sets in deeper outside. There is a real sense of unease throughout, Clarissa's manic nature particularly unsettling, the hallucinating baby crawling towards Kathryn skin crawling and the final scene is terrifying, the true horrors of what is happening as a character if brutally slaughtered for the amusement of others and thus revealing the true nature of the people Kathryn is trapped with.

The penultimate story Hide And Seek is a masterfully directed story of cat and mouse as the revelations behind Isaac, Clarissa and Delores find Kathryn fighting for her very life. This was a deeply disturbing but riveting tale, as Kathryn finds herself playing a very twisted game. Her intended fate as the mother of Isaac's children is creepy, Clarissa's manic determination to defend herself as she hunts down Kathryn very unsettling. The ghost of Kathryn's dead husband adds a real momentum, trying to guide her to safety as she finds herself facing the Hodder lord and lady with deadly consequences.

The final episode Solstice is a more emotional affair, flitting between the plight of Kathryn and the grief stricken mother Delores, out for revenge for the death of her children. But it is a far from sombre affair either; the horror undertones allow for every member of the cast to interact with the two survivors as ghosts. Death and despair hang over this tale but there are also moments of beauty and horror, the titular gods of Frost making for a somewhat magical presence. As with all good horror tales, Adams choses not to wrap things up in a neat bow, leaving Kathryn's story on a somewhat ambiguous, sorrowful note. And it's the mystery of her fate that will linger with the listener as much as the unsettling moments of horror that sit with you long after it has ended...

The Extras...

This release also packs a lot of extras in too. First up is an interview with director Scott Handcock, writer Guy Adam's and actress Eve Myles, exploring the themes of the story and the journey it's characters take. It's a lovely retrospective on the release, which Big Finish does so well with the majority of its releases.

The seven minutes of outakes is a real laugh, Myles suggestion that the audio includes them a real triumph as the audience is given an insight into how much fun it must have been to make the audio, complete with wolf noises, death rattles and a real sense of camaraderie between all involved.

The audio ends with a gothic, haunting musical suite. At seventeen minutes it takes the listener through an intense musical journey, from playful moments and jazz to unhinged strings, eerie choral tones, disturbing scratching noises and haunting piano solos that really capture the atmosphere of the piece. The final mix of pipes and string make for a beautiful, emotional music climax. This is a gourgeous, if slightly unsettling treat to wrap up the release.

Some Final Thoughts...

Blind Terror: The Gods of Frost is a brilliant piece of gothic horror; Big Finish have delivered some truly memorable chilling tales in its Doctor Who range (and indeed the moments here that reminded me of the excellent The Chime Of Midnight) and all that talent and experience culminates in this original tale that really grips the listener and pulls them into the disturbing, harrowing world of Hodder Hall.

Eve Myles really shines as the central protagonist but she is backed up by an impressive cast that makes good use of Guy Adams' script, all brought to life under Scott Handcock's strong direction. With releases like this, Big Finish are proving just how good they are at bringing original stories just as much as the likes of Blake's 7 or Torchwood and Blind Terror: The Gods of Frost is a treat that anyone who appreciates a good ghost story should enjoy...

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