Written and directed by Mark Gatiss, this was the BBC’s 2018 A Ghost Story for Christmas offering. It is the short but not very sweet tale of tetchy veteran actor Aubrey Judd’s nightmarish encounters in a radio studio, where he trying to record a story for his regular Man in Black-esque horror series (which was latterly presented by Gatiss himself, who must at some point have had to apply for extra fingers in order have the necessary number required to insert into all the horror filled pies his many digits are stuck in). His script seems to have been replaced, he complains to the young producer. And then it doesn’t. And then it does, and an alternative horror story unfolds, an episode from Judd’s history he has spent the subsequent years trying to forget. But his past has very much resurfaced in every sense of the word.
Judd is played by actual veteran actor Simon Callow, as version of himself, it seems, which is no bad thing. He delivers both Aubrey and Simon’s lines with relish so fruity you could stick it in a jar and call it piccalilli. Callow’s an actor I’ve had a soft spot for since I first saw him extravagantly snog Brenda Blethyn in the sitcom Chance in a Million in the 80s. Rather marvellously, last Christmas he recorded a short anthology of ghost stories for Audible, which are linked by a slight but enjoyably hokey ghost story in which he plays another version of himself, with Sally Phillips as his producer. The readings themselves are splendid and perfect for spooky festive hunkering.
I was slightly underwhelmed by the Dead Room when I first saw it. I think I was hoping for something along the lines of Gatiss’ Crooked House which I loved and remains one of my Christmas TV staples. With it’s modern functional setting of a radio studio, this is a much less flamboyant offering but it’s grown on me - taut and claustrophobic, I really enjoyed watching it in preparation for drawing this. It also gave me the challenge of drawing a series of sounds. It’s on Youtube. Altogether now “S-s-s-single bed…”