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Appointment with Fear

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BBC Radio 4, 29 October 2009

This light-hearted look at the place of horror in contemporary culture was recorded at London’s Sutton House (reputedly one of the capital’s oldest haunted properties), and took the form of a discussion involving presenter Reece Shearsmith and guests Vic Reeves, Mark Gatiss and Yvette Fielding.

I didn’t expect too much from the programme, I have to admit; I thought it would simply be an excuse for the celebrity presenters to tell jokes. However Appointment with Fear proved a pleasant surprise: the panel were quite candid about the ways in which horror affected them, particularly on television and in the cinema, and the discussion was punctuated with clips from a variety of programmes including The Man in Black with Valentine Dyall, Griselda Harvey delivering a venomous laugh, an adaptation of Stephen King^s Pet Cemetery, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five (particularly horrifying for young children) and Ghosthunters, a reality television show presented by Michael Parkinson. The conclusions reached were far from original (that horror not only has the power to shock, but can appeal to all types of viewer and/or listener, regardless of class, race or gender). The panellists also suggested that horror has a certain cathartic quality, which proved an interesting point: I wonder how we might differentiate horror from tragedy in this respect?