Throwback Thursday: Ghostwatch Reading Response

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“Ghostwatch”, directed by Lesley Manning, is a drama film, where viewers witnessed television personalities venture into a “unique, live investigation, into the supernatural”, and end up upsetting viewers all over the United Kingdom. Two aspects that I admired and enjoyed (sort of) from this film was that it gave off the impression that it was “live” to viewers unaware that it was a drama film, accidentally fooling the viewers, and the reaction from the viewers after the programme aired.

The first thing that stood out to me was the “live” vibe it was showcasing the viewers at home. This is a big element of the film because it has the right requirements to make it seem as though it were live: the film had a phone number for viewers who wanted to phone in and tell their experiences of the supernatural, but since it was a pre-recorded drama film, it appeared that the phone number was fake, and callers were told that the programme was fictitious. Or were they? Also, if there was an actual live programme that showcased a ghost hunt in a haunted family house on Halloween, people would’ve wanted to watch until the very end to see if there really was a ghost. This teaches the viewer (who views it these days) the real expectation of special live programmes in the real world, because viewers of the programme gradually become eager as the programme progresses. I can connect this with an experience of watching actual ghost hunting programmes that often go to buildings and such, looking and investigating a ghost sighting, but only in the film did I actually experience a “real” ghost release its wrath.

The second aspect of this film that stood out to me (but probably not admired) was how the film affected the viewers after its first and only broadcast. Dozens of viewers had dialed in the number the film showed up, and instead of being notified that the programme was fictitious, they found out the line was unavailable, since approximately 20,000 viewers called in complaining of the programme. Many were upset by the programme’s disturbed details of the antagonistic spectre: a living man who lived in the household years before that died in the household, preying on girls “going through the changes”. After the broadcast, the producer of the programme had responded to angered viewers that the programme itself had tried a few times to warn the viewer to “switch the channel” as the events slowly escalated, with the “host” Michael Parkinson saying, “Please, please, we don’t want to give anybody sleepless nights, we don’t want to start panic, don’t let your imaginations run wild. These things we’re talking about are very, very, very rare indeed, and the chance of them happening are exceedingly remote. Please believe us.” Even with that warning (along with some other warnings and the main warning they played before the programme even started), viewers protested that the warnings were there for more “dramatic effect” on the programme, thus boosting the “live” vibe of the programme. The react from the viewers made me astounded (even though I knew the film was all fiction before I started viewing the film for this reading response). I can relate this aspect of the film to many times where an event went terribly wrong live on television, and had viewers angered or upset.

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