At this time, I’d like to bring your attention to the fantastic story specific posters for each tale from beyond the pale. These posters were designed and created by Gary Pullin and each one is signed by Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid. I bought one and I can vouch for the fact that they are of high quality and perfectly capture the tone and atmosphere of each story. Okay, onward and upward to the reviews and discussion!
YOU KNOW THE DRILL.
READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION!
(Just FYI, I will never get sick of this hilarious picture of my cat. Ever.)
British and Proud
Story Summary: Newly weds encounter a surprise during their honeymoon.
This episode is probably one of the more queasy ones from the set. There are some supernatural elements such as communication and contact through dreams but I think the stand out element from this story is the straight up gross out horror. The Foley artist really lets our ears have a bounty of guts being squished and bones being hacked. Dismemberment by machete (hello, Dexter!) and torture sex are not sounds you’d hear at the day spa. The audio is as gruesome as you can stand and these brilliant sound effects drive home the idea that radio can be just as gory as video. Your mind’s eye is limitless in its capacity to illustrate the icky sounds being piped into your brain courtesy of Tales from Beyond the Pale. The listener also hears some African drumming that helps to signify Sebastian’s dream state. This musical interlude really increases the stress and tension of the story as each piece unfolds to arrive at its gruesome conclusion. I also really liked the addition of the a baby crying during the wedding ceremony at the beginning of the story, a good audio foreshadowing if ever there was one.
As far as the story itself, I have major gripes. Similar to how some people who watch scary movies are put off by what they deem as the stupidity of the characters, i.e. “Don’t go into that dark basement by yourself, dummy!” I find what I perceive as stereotyping of the characters and geographical locations a little distracting and it made me a little uncomfortable because I thought the entire premise was slightly racist (a common concern that Simon Rumley has heard other listeners say). A British man marries an African woman whose family and background are completely unknown. Seriously? Why would you do that?? Here, I may reveal myself as too much on “The Spectrum” since I just can’t understand why you would marry someone so quickly without knowing everything about them—especially where there are huge red flags like how the other person has no friends and no family and how you’ve apparently never discussed having a family (surprise, I’m preggers!). And generally, I just find these kinds of Rom-Com style weak plot points to be painfully eye-rolling (if eye rolling can be an emotional state, which for me, it totally is). I’m supposed to feel happy for two people who barely know each other who then get married and then go to a remote, low-tech region of the Sudan (and you don’t even know the name of the place? for reals???) for their honeymoon? Also, the concept of mystery and doom being located deep in Africa, specifically Sudan is kind of tired and lazy. And do you know what is an even more overused trope? An African native portrayed as a savage, which is only seconded by an African woman portrayed as supernatural and able to manipulate dreams. I know there is leeway here to initiate a discussion on the interesting juxtaposition of a British man (from a former colonial power, arguably the colonial power of the late century) being used and abused by an Anglophile African man with 30 daughters. From this perspective, maybe there is satisfaction in exacting revenge on the proper British gent. Perhaps we are supposed to identify with Zalika’s father, Harold? But then again, I dislike the idea that Harold is psychotically obsessed with one of the whitest of white countries. I think this kind of discussion could go on and on without a satisfying conclusion so I’ll leave it here and just say that certain details of the story didn’t work for me and it was hard to muster sympathy for Sebastian and Zalika, especially when Harold is portrayed as a super charismatic and infinitely interesting psychopath.
Okay, I know I just said all those negative things but STILL despite all that academic fretting and over-analysis that my progressive over-sensitive liberal schooling has ingrained in me, the story is exciting and filled with gore & horror and may be exactly what you’re looking for in this collection of audio plays. It’s a tall drink of ominous and suspenseful mystery, sexy with a twist of demented mutilation at the end.
So I’m not going to get into the racist thing much here, except to say this story could be kind of racist. I didn’t really notice it my first listen through, maybe because I am used to the horror story thing of using racism/sexism/homophobia, etc, to play on people’s most basic, carnal fears. Those fears are usually based in what you don’t know, and since Straight White Men rule, what you don’t know is black people and women and gay people, etc. This, and lots of horror stories, play on those fears of The Other. Like, the fear that black people are evil and cannibals and such. This story’s author should’ve maybe thought about making the Other not-black . . . making them, I don’t know, a Siberian isolated tribe, instead of one in Africa, or something. But that’s kind of a lot to ask of a short radio play that is relying on instant associations. I mean, everyone who’s seen National Geographic can picture an isolated tribe in the middle of nowhere Africa. But an isolated Siberian tribe? Not so much. ANYWAY that’s all I’m going to say about it, because it’s easy to get into a “he should’ve done it THIS way” spiral when evaluating anything. But we’re here to not judge what he COULD have written, but what he DID write. AND JUDGE I SHALL.
Despite that paragraph above, this is actually one of my favorites of the series. It’s straight-up horror. Nothing too fancy, just some supernatural, some squeamy making sex, and some major disfigurement (and maybe some racism, yes). Like all the TFBTP stories, the sound in this is awesome. It really establishes some creepy shit happening, some spooky sense of place and there are some spine-tingling screams and well-timed edits that gave me that kind of feeling I get on roller coasters, where I want to climb out of my seat because it’s terrifying but I also don’t want it to end. There’s a cool dream sequence to give it some extra supernaturalness, although I’m not sure it’s really necessary . . . it sets up an ominous tone early on, but c’mon, it’s TFBTP. The ominous tone is implied even when everything at first is sunshine and buttercups and a happy wedding. Maybe even BECAUSE everything at first is sunshine and buttercups and a happy wedding. Perhaps my favorite thing about this was it was balls-to-the-wall with the characters’ fates. I mean, these aren’t juicebox characters who you are kind of wanting to be chopped to bits. You are invested in Sebastian’s and Zalika’s unconventional love story, which makes their not so happy ending all the more gutting.
More than any other story in Tales From Beyond the Pale, British and Proud uses discomfort to create horror. While it does contain some horror staples like an isolated community and a dream that supernaturally foreshadows the horror to come, I think its use of gruesome disfigurement combined with sex is where the real horror in the story comes from, and works as an incredible payoff to a wonderful setup. And it is a payoff that I think works better on the radio, where you must imagine it, visualize it in your head, than it would in a visual medium or in a written work. No special effects would do justice to the scene at the end of this story, and no written description would live up to the image created by the audio. It is a case of a story that was written perfectly for the medium in which it was presented.
Stay tuned for our reviews of the second story on Disc 2: The Conformation