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Dark Shadows: The House By The Sea by James Goss

01/08/2012. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Dark Shadows: The House in the USA - or Buy Dark Shadows: The House in the UK

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pub: Big Finish. 1 CD 60 minute story. Price: CD: 9.99 (UK), Download: 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-632-4) cast: Gerald Conway, James Unsworth and David Johnson.

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There's 'The House By The Sea'. It's a beautiful house at the edge of a special town called Collinsport.

There's a man called Gerald Conway, who's been dreaming of the house. He knows it's trying to tell him something and disturbed by his dreams, needs a break. Perhaps a stay by the sea? When he finds out the house is real, he just has to go there. The house wants him but he doesn't know what for. Perhaps the saying about looking and leaping might just apply.

Collinsport. It's a sleepy town in Maine with some peculiar residents. Some only come out at night. All with something to hide. Gerald wants a rest but something in the house has a story to tell and he must listen. Gerald thinks it would be a good idea to record his thoughts and, as his life gets increasingly fraught, we can feel the tension and fear escalate. His diary of his daily and nightly encounters with the residents of the area of Collinsport and his increasing awareness of what is not right at the house form the basis of the story.

Colin Baker provides a new perspective on the Dark Shadows universe as he narrates this dark tale of the supernatural. His is a genuinely creepy narrative that utilises some of the known elements of 'Dark Shadows' and brings in this new character, an innocent abroad.

Although we might wonder why this person doesn't just up and leave, in the tradition of 'The Man In Black' and every other ghost story, he just keeps on suffering.

Found footage as a genre has become hackneyed from over-use and care should be taken using this method but this thoughtful use of it in a sound recording works well. Set in 1971, the cassette recorder was starting to be used as a tool to record in a domestic setting. Using it here emphasis's every time the buttons are pressed down that we are going to learn something new. It heightens the sense of detachment and distance from the drama, our own sense of powerlessness.

I'd give this an 'excellent' badge. 'The House By The Sea' works on an old-fashioned frightener level and as an introduction to the perils of Collinsport. If you are studying construction of narrative and the power of the narrator you also get a good idea of how to ratchet up the tension as the detached observer is drawn into the machinations of the Collins' history.

Sue Davies

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