Channel 4 premiered the first episode of its new series True Horror on April 19. It is said to be so scary that it even comes with an onscreen warning. When you see the words, “The following dramatisation contains scenes of paranormal activity which may disturb some viewers,” you know something interesting will happen.
Even so, True Horror’s pilot episode had a mixed reception. Many of the viewers were genuinely scared, although there are also those who didn’t think much of it. Some even joked that the high electricity bill featured in the episode (supposedly a sign of haunting) was the real horror. Others were entirely indifferent and not convinced of the ‘real-life story’ factor. The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan was one of the latter, stating in her review that the episode failed to build any real tension, and even those who believe in the format will be disappointed.
Of course, there are also audiences who believe that the new program is promising. To quote Channel 4’s Dom Bird, “This series will deliver a haunting blend of first-person testimony and cinematic drama, made all the more chilling with the knowledge that the stories are real.” True Horror is a docu-drama, which features interviews with the real people involved in the stories interspersed with a dramatisation of their accounts.
The pilot episode, titled Hellfire Farm, told the true story of the Rich family’s battle with a malevolent spirit that haunted their farmhouse in Wales for years. Artist Bill moved into the secluded house with his family because of the peaceful environment. After a while, he seemingly gets possessed, and his paintings have darker subjects, such as mutilated dead bodies. The episode’s scares include disembodied footsteps, animals dying due to mysterious reasons, a cloaked figure in the darkness, and a room filled with satanic symbols.
While the episode certainly had more than a handful of spooky scenes, it seems as if it didn’t tell the whole story. The Rich family told Radio Times how the show left out many parts of what really happened. For instance, the episode didn’t include the appearance of celebrity exorcist Eddie Burks, who starred in Ghost Hunters. It also showed that the hauntings were banished by a priest. In truth, it was Burks’ exorcism which drove away the spirit at the Brecons Beacon cottage. Asked why they made changes, the producers simply said they needed to simplify the tale.
Even with mixed reviews, True Horror still made an impact on viewers. Based on its premise, the show still has a lot in store that remains to be seen, which is why it is too early to say if it will be the next great docu-drama. What’s clear at this point is that the series had a strong beginning due to the buzz it created. If it can continue this momentum and improve its sequence transitions, horror fans will definitely be pleased. True Horror airs on Channel 4 every Friday at 2:30 AM India time.