As a painter and animator the last thing that I thought that I’d ever be asked to do is write a radio play. If any of you out there are familiar with my work you’ll probably understand why. My animations are, to put it lightly, ‘dialogue-lite’. In fact ‘The Screaming Skull’ doesn’t have a single line of character delivered dialogue. So, you may be asking, how does a Devon based animator, barely known to the horror community (animators in time inevitably become barely known to their own families) get offered the chance to write a Mercury theatre style horror play for the paragon of indie success that is Glass Eye Pix?
Well…some may call it luck, others might call it destiny…(I call it luck by the way). Early last year I was just putting the finishing touches, if you’ll excuse the pun, on the fourth Penny Dreadful animation entitled ‘The Hairy Hands’. It was a project that led to many a long night sat locked to the laptop duelling with After Effects, so to keep myself entertained I would listen to a selection of podcasts of the classic radio horror shows, (‘The Haunted Crossroads’ on ‘The Witches Tale’ springs to mind). They were the perfect accompaniment to the laborious and silent task of assembling eerie images in the early hours. Shortly after I was contacted by Rue Morgue Radio DJ Stuart ‘Feedback’ Andrews who after seeing the previous animations was keen on doing a short interview about them for the show. A chance to be on the show was wonderful enough, but Feedback was also gracious enough to mention that he’d recently had the pleasure of interviewing a certain Mr Glenn McQuaid and seeing a similar passion for all things Hammer in his work suggested that I should send him my animations…
When I got the call I said yes without hesitation. Then I thought – what on earth have I agreed to? But then I started re-evaluating how the animations work in terms of audio texture and I realised that the part that always excited me the most during their creation was the point when my images were brought to life by sound by my sound artist Mick Grierson. I also recalled watching back those clips rendered out in the early hours to those radio soundscapes and long lost voices. Once I started thinking of the project in those terms – the sound painting the environment, landscapes unlimited by budget or technique – that really fired my imagination. In terms of subject I was far too timid and lacking in bravura to try anything too experimental however. If stripped of all my visual tricks I was damn certain that I was not going to venture too far beyond my pale!
It doesn’t take much of a lure to draw me back to the moor and thus for narrative I was drawn to another Dartmoor legend – one that melded Celtic mythology and Christian fears projected upon a landscape poised to devour the foolhardy. Yet as much as the story is based upon actual myths, characters and locations I ultimately tried to imagine the story as something of a classic British Gothic unearthed from the vault…a lost Terence Fisher Hammer film ! The connection between Hammer horror and Dartmoor is hardly a difficult connection to make. After all, their second unit stayed in the area wherein my story is set whilst they were doing pick up shots of the moor for ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’! ‘The Demon Huntsman’ is packed with such references, a few somewhat obscure, some downright brazen! Referential certainly then, but I’d like to think reverent also – to a gentler age of terror, tales that at least bow to kiss your hand…before cutting your throat.
On a final note I would sincerely like to thank Mr Fessenden and Mr McQuaid, the actors and all at Glass Eye Pix for the wonderful opportunity that they have given me. It was a challenge, I’d be lying if I said that it was not, but an enjoyable enlightening one and one – I hope – that it is at least a tale worth telling. So – without further ado, let’s walk through a land very close to my heart… they say if all the unclaimed bodies, scattered in their shallow graves rose from the moor, the dead would outnumber the living. The earth out there is alive with their stories.
This is just one of them…