INTERVIEW: Simon Barnard Gives Us the Lowdown on Hammer’s Audio Horror Anthology ‘Hammer Chillers’

hammerchillersWe caught up with Simon Barnard, the Executive Producer at Bafflegab Productions, who has partnered with Hammer Films to produce their first audio horror anthology series  Hammer Chillers .

Hammer Chillers is a new horror anthology series that will premiere in June 2013. Available first as 30-minute weekly downloadable episodes from the Hammer website, the collected series will also be released on CD, with special bonus material.

Writers for the first series include some of the biggest names working in horror today: Stephen Volk (Ghostwatch, The Awakening), Mark Morris (Toady, Vampire Circus), Stephen Gallagher (Chimera, The Eleventh Hour), Christopher Fowler (The Bryant and May Mysteries), Paul Magrs (The Brenda and Effie Mysteries, Doctor Who) and comedian Robin Ince (Radio 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage).

So Simon tell us how the project came about?

Hammer approached me. They’ve been busy expanding into books, theatre, comics, visitor attractions and so on, and audio drama was something they were interested in exploring. We’d produced The Scarifyers series, which over the years has featured many a ghost, Ouija board, demon and Loch Ness Monster, as well as a few Peter Cushing talking books, so I guess they thought we might be interested. Which we were, of course. I suggested doing a horror anthology series to test the waters, and it went from there.

What were the main challenges of translating a horror story to audio?

Obviously you can’t see blood, or fog, or fangs on audio, so some of those strong visual elements that Hammer is known for goes out of the window. But I think atmosphere, and creepiness, and tension (and loud bangs) can actually work a lot better on audio. It’s a one-to-one relationship you’re having with the listener, a more personal experience than sitting in a cinema. So you play to those strengths. There’s a moment in the first story, Stephen Gallagher’s ‘The Box,’ where we’re with a character in a horribly claustrophobic situation – and the listener is right in there with him. It’s incredibly intimate, and creepy, and I just don’t think it could ever work as well visually.

Do you think this will appeal to audio drama newbies as well as fans of the medium?

I really hope so. I’m quite sure that the majority of Hammer fans, and horror fans, don’t listen and have maybe never listened to audio drama. I’m sure they think that it’s just like film, but lacking the pictures, so can’t be as good. But as someone wiser than myself once said, “The pictures are better on radio.” It’s all in your imagination, and that can be the scariest place of all. So please, Hammer fans – give it a go!

Did the writer’s have much experience of writing audio dramas before joining the project? If they had little experience how did you go about bringing them up to speed?

Stephen Gallagher started out writing for radio, and wrote a few episodes of The Man in Black for Radio 4 – the rest of them had experience in writing for telly, or in print. In Robin Ince’s case, I think it was his very first fiction script. They didn’t need a lot of direction though. I suppose there was the odd scene taking place in a  similar-sounding room to the scene before, which always makes it difficult to tell where or when we are, but nothing that wasn’t easily fixed. I think for the TV writers, the fact that they could place their stories anywhere, with no concerns about budgets, was quite liberating. We have stories set in Greece, in Russia, in the 1970s, and underwater!

From a technical standpoint how where the episodes put together? Were the cast all together for the recordings?

We recorded two episodes a day, so some of the cast appear in more than one story. Mostly they’d be playing one major and one minor part, and then we might cover the odd part with an actor from another day. But basically we’d get half a dozen actors in, and they’d spend the day screaming and doing awful (imaginary) things to each other. It was a lot of fun.

Do you have any specific tips for anyone wanting to do their own audio horror?

Don’t overdo it. Use space to create tension, be sparing with music. The shocks and jumps work a lot better if they come out of nowhere.

Do you have plans to do any more Hammer Chillers after this initial series has come to an end?

Yes. We’ll wait to see how this one does, but we’re making provisional plans for Series 2 already, and looking for new writers.

If you could choose one Hammer star from the classic days of such films as The Devil Rides Out and Dracula to do some voice work for a Hammer Chiller who would you go for?

Alive – Christopher Lee, of course. Dead – Peter Cushing, of course. Though as you mention The Devil Rides Out, Charles Gray would be nice too.

If you could adapt one Hammer film as an audio drama which one would you choose and why?

Captain Kronos would be fun. Quatermass, of course. But I’d probably go for Dracula AD 1972. In fact, I’d like to do a Dracula AD 1972 series, with Inspector Murray taking centre stage. It’d be The Sweeney with vampires, with the long-awaited return of Michael Kitchen as ‘Greg.’

How would sum up Hammer Chillers in three words?

Killers. Thrillers. Chillers.

The first Hammer Chillers story is called The Box and is written by Stephen Gallagher. The title will be available to download from the Hammer Chillers website on 7th June. The title on it’s own will set you back £2.99 to download or you can subscribe and get all six episodes for £14.99. There will also be a special CD Digital Pack released on 26th July that will contain all six stories,a bonus documentary and free downloads.

Interviewer: Nuge

More from the world of Geek Syndicate

%d bloggers like this: