Dark Shadows: Review: Big Finish Audio 38: Beyond the Grave

38_beyondthegrave-alternative_cover_largeStarring Stephen Kelly, Asta Perry and Kathryn Leigh Scott, with Jonathon Marx, Nancy Barrett, Aaron Lamont, Stephanie Ellyne, Brigid Lohrey, Simon Kent, Christopher Ragland, Marie Wallace, Jack Chapman, Craig Daniel Adams, Jerry Lacy, Kymberly Ashman, Alan Flanagan, Evelyn Adams, James Unsworth, Jen Sowersby, Jade Sowersby and Colin Baker

Written by Aaron Lamont, Directed by David Darlington, Darren Gross and Jim Pierson

In which the crew of British paranormal television show Beyond the Grave have arrived in Collinsport to broadcast a live episode from Eagle Hill Cemetery at midnight on Halloween. What could possibly go wrong…?

On 31 October 1992, the controversial mockumentary Ghostwatch convinced many viewers that they were watching genuine instances of supernatural activity, culminating with a literal “ghost in the machine” using the BBC’s transmission network to spread its influence far and wide. Whether an intentional homage to this or not, Beyond the Grave comes off as a cross between Ghostwatch and Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape, with ample amounts of The Blair Witch Project thrown in for good measure.

Played out in both “as broadcast” and “found footage” formats, this story chronicles the disastrous live television broadcast that the 2013 Dark Shadows audios have been gradually building up to. It’s a sprawling affair – essentially a full-cast audio drama, even if most of the cast only pop in for brief cameos or as previously-recorded interview subjects or live phone-in callers. The aural soundscape is as full as the cast, successfully conveying a windswept, stormy night with nasty things lurking on the periphery of one’s senses. Kudos to all involved for creating such a palpable atmosphere of increasing tension and dread!

Much like Carolyn Stoddard, Maggie Evans has largely been a minor presence throughout the 2013 audios, but now she steps forward for her turn in the spotlight. Kathryn Leigh Scott ably rises to the script’s challenges; cast in the Cassandra-esque role of the lone local vehemently opposed to the live broadcast – but unable to fully articulate why this is such a terrible idea that should be stopped at once – she clearly relishes the opportunity to delve into Maggie’s depths.

Unsurprisingly, the producer of Beyond the Grave learns of Maggie’s reputation in town (as well as her two stays at Windcliff Sanitarium); this gives Scott some great moments to rail against the small-mindedness of her neighbours. But even more powerful scenes follow during the shattering climax as she, Sheriff Haggerty and Tom (the show’s presenter) are trapped in the Collins Mausoleum with the malevolent entity…

Verdict: Dark Shadows rarely indulged in happy endings, but Beyond the Grave finishes on what has to be the bleakest moment to date for the supernatural soap opera. Where things will go from here as characters pick up the pieces (quite literally in some cases) is anyone’s guess… 8/10

John S. Hall

Click here to order Beyond the Grave from Big Finish

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