I’ve been listening to: Sibling Horror

Like SessionsX, this is another anthology podcast I found through Knifepoint Horror episode notes. What a thing to stumble onto… My expectations of the universe are reasonable: maybe four or five stories narrated by Soren Narnia a year. Here’s a cache of like fifteen. Incredible.

Anyway, in stanning the narrator, I’m neglecting the authors; Emma and Matt Fradd. Their work here is top notch. Just classic, pared back stories of people helplessly colliding with the unknown and stalked by the unknowable.

Something I think they evoke particularly well is a palpable sense of location. The towns and buildings these stories inhabit have a real sense of space. More than just texture, this is the bedrock for a certain style of horror; the place you shouldn’t enter, the thing that follows you out, the room you can’t leave… all reliant on delineated and sufficiently differentiated places. The Fradds adeptly deploy safe-ish places with limited vantage points. A car pulls up to a darkened drive-through, a back garden is seen from a kitchen window, a neighbour’s house is visible from a comfy porch. The instant tension of these unsustainable sanctuaries (The Fradds know what we’re here for) is where Sibling Horror distinguishes itself from Knifepoint’s more incremental descent into horror. In Soren’s own stories, while his narrator is sometimes trapped scrabbling or hidden in claustrophobic moments, more often than not he seems compelled towards trouble that reveals itself over weeks or years. Here, it tends to be thrust upon him in a moment. Transgressions played out over hours or days if delayed at all.

I was also really taken with the the darkly surreal edge to some of these stories. How often are the strange tales you listen to genuinely strange? A standout, genuinely uncomfortable early episode arrives with a cosy, Alvin Schwartz style setup only to lurch like a false awakening into something as cold and disorientating as a Thomas Ligotti vignette. Another takes a setup not too dissimilar from a classic Loony Tunes cartoon, and lets a failure of acceptance lead to absolute ruination. The indefinable becomes the unarguable, which in turn becomes the inescapable.

These stories have also been collected as a paperback anthology, and I’m really looking forward to picking it up (roll on, pay day). They’re worth revisiting, and I’m curious as to how different they’ll feel when disentangled from the voice of someone whose work I’ve been listening to for years. That the Fradds have created something distinctive even with a voice so familiar is testament to the quality on display in their podcast.

new podcast: Mordeo

One month after two brothers disappear in the Monongahela Forest, the lone survivor of the pair emerges starving, disoriented, and traumatized. While attempting to re-establish a normal life, the harrowing events from the woods continue to haunt him–and his darkest secret threatens to turn him into the very monster he believed he had fled.

What was the last podcast you listened to with zero narration? Every ensemble thing I’ve caught has a talk radio mockumentary angle, or a found footage podcast format, or cassette accumulating archivists… just some kind of way to convey more to the audience than the characters themselves are aware of in the moment. There was an curmudgeonly “what’s the deal with” kinda post on r/audiodrama recently, bemoaning this tendency with a smattering of all caps, wondering if podcasting’s propensity for meta formats might be symptomatic of millennial sensitivity and self-absorption. I think the answer’s a little more prosaic: in a story without visuals or narration the soundtrack and dialogue have to do a lot of heavy lifting.

Mordeo is all about this, and leans into a conversational style that’s dripping with exposition and buttery foreshadowing. It’s an endearingly earnest and undeniably effective approach to storytelling. Propulsive even it’s quieter moments, and managing to fit a lot of detail into a pretty lean episode count. It took a minute to ease myself into that slightly Hallmark, slightly Resident Evil style of loaded dialogue, but I was fully onboard after about half an episode. Sticking with this one.

You can find a trailer and the first couple of episodes here.

a quick update: tags, spoilers, and content warnings

I’m trying to be pretty conscientious about tagging stuff, I want it to be a viable way of finding stuff you might be into. Having said that, I’m going to avoid using tags that could be considered spoilers. Premises and appropriately vague themes only. So like, whilst “babysitters” would be in (or will be in, now that I think of it; there’s this episode of SessionsX that’s just ten out of ten, chef’s kiss ruinous), “clown statues” and “the call was coming from inside the house” are out.

Speaking of tags, something I’ve put some serious thought into implementing is content warnings. I think it’s a very reasonable thing to accept that there are certain subjects some people may want to avoid, especially in a medium that can so easily overlap with your day-to-day life. Having said that, I don’t think I can feasibly make it work here. The problem is I’m attempting to catalogue literally hundreds of shows, many with dozens of episodes. There’s a good chance I may never get round to listening to them all. Content warnings anywhere on this site would imply that listings without don’t contain that kind of content. Better to acknowledge that I just can’t vouch for this stuff.

new podcast: Uncle Bob’s Campfire

Just your crazy uncle telling his adventures in the dark. He says he’s the kind of guy trouble always finds, but he’s lying. Probably. Often horror, always weird.

Whilst not totally enthused by the trailer (it’s quite on the nose, and just happened to be the second time this week I’ve heard the answerphone gimmick), I’m really glad I kept listening. The first episode is a lot of fun. Breezy, with some nicely teed up nastiness.

It more or less nails this feeling that only single-narrator dramas can pull off; of arriving at something awful by let oneself fall through multiple cracks. There’s an accrued isolation and a steady accumulation of horrors here that I associate with some the best Knifepoint Horror episodes, but with a tone all of it’s own. Refreshingly light in places, but still managing to pack a punch. Plus, I can never get enough of stuff with unreliable narration. I’m looking forward to seeing where this one goes…

You can find the trailer and the first episode here.

the true crime dilemma

Halfway through adding the bulk of the links, and I’m taking a break at Let’s Not Meet. I’ve been wanting to do literally anything else for a while, and hashing out what I think counts as horror seems like a pretty productive way to procrastinate. So…

I haven’t listened to the podcast (yet!), but I know the sub the stories are taken from… the better posts there are genuinely some of the scariest content on Reddit. Still, I think they’re on the cusp of being something other than horror, on account of being ostensibly real encounters. The focus on near misses and what might have been is what brings me around. A defining quality of horror is that it’s cathartic. Taking power from ambient anxieties, and implications that, however uncomfortable, resonate because they’re universal. From the bleakest Bryan Bertino film to the most nihilistic Thomas Ligotti story, horror necessarily gives relatable forms to fears; a reassuring flip side to whatever awful thing we’re taking in. And bringing it back to LNM, whilst horror deals in truths, the victims are hypothetical. Nobody’s actually getting hurt. It’s an attenuated vaccine: fear without sadness. The distressingly close calls of Let’s Not Meet fit the bill.

This is, of course, a really subjective take. I want to err on the side of not imposing my own tastes on people, so things that straddle genres are in. Like, Lore might do episodes on HH Holmes and the Hinterkaifeck murders, but it’s not every episode that you have to reckon with actual tragedy, so it’s listed. If, like me, you’re kinda uncomfortable with this sort of stuff, keep an eye on the tags. “true crime” and “non-fiction” are a couple I’ll be especially diligent with.

getting started

The day before yesterday, I saw this post on Reddit cataloguing more horror podcasts than I ever would have guessed existed. The person posting (one of a few contributors apparently) mentioned that the list would be updated from time to time, and would eventually include descriptions as well as titles. Basically, I’ve stolen their idea and ran with it.

Speaking of eventualities, along with links and descriptions of podcasts and old-time radio plays, I’d like to incorporate a kind of IMDB-lite of creators and narrators. Mostly so I can keep tabs on Soren Narnia more thoroughly. I like the idea collating maybe-of-interest stuff from other media too (movies like Pontypool, series like The Kirlian Frequency), but the scope of this thing is already wildly beyond my attention span, so we’ll see.

Oh, for about twelve hours this site was called “nightly company”, which I only mention because check out this video I found when looking to see if that name was already a thing