Watch This: Urban Ghost Story (1998)

I do love me some supernatural horror -not werewolves, vampires, and the like but I do like a good ghost story. I love ghost stories, I think, because I am such a rationalist and the presence of ghosts is probably the greatest of the ruptures with the real that we see in the supernatural horror canon -certainly more so than the other traditional monsters that we see stalking the pages and screens of the genre.

There is however one thing that has repeatedly bugged me about ghost stories and films and that is the class of the people who are, usually, affected by the supernatural events. It isn’t true in 100% of cases but there does seem to be a preponderance of upper middle class people affected by things that go bump in the night. It is almost as if regular working class people are immune to the attentions of the dearly no-quite departed. I know that there are exceptions to this but they are exceptions and exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis eh?

What confuses me about the lack of working people in supernatural horror films is that the economic situation of working class people is such that fleeing from the horror isn’t even remotely an option -or is at least going to be far more difficult that it is an automatic source of tension and conflict.

I’m not sure how much of this is a hangover from the Gothic tale and the works of M.R. James but I do much prefer a story where I can relate somewhat to the life experiences of the characters and to the non-supernatural troubles that they face.

As I said, there are some exceptions to this. One exceptional exception is the 1998 BBC film Urban Ghost Story.

The story follows the events following the joy riding accident that nearly kills the 12 year old protagonist and does kill her equally young friend. Twelve year old Lizzie lives with her Mum and younger brother in a small flat in a Glaswegian high rise. After the accident strange things start happening and Lizzie’s mother, Kate, does her best to try and protect her daughter from events but she is hampered by her economic position and all the generally shitty things that we have to deal with on a daily basis.

It is a beautifully bleak film which does a great job of capturing at least some of the reality of life for working people in the UK and uses that reality to further problematise the supernatural troubles that beset the family. There are one or two problems with the film -the reinforcing of the myth of young working class women getting pregnant simply to get a council flat is a glaring one- but on the whole it is a brilliant example of a working class ghost story.

It hasn’t been on television for about five years -which is no surprise as it looks like it was filmed on video and so maybe wouldn’t appeal to those who expect everything in HD- but it is available on DVD and, I’m sure, it will be available somewhere like the Pirate Bay. If you get the chance to watch this I highly recommend doing so. 🙂

A Musical Guide to Modern Britain

I’m writing a wee near future story set in England and as part of my process for writing it I’ve put together a playlist on Youtube. All the songs are by the same band, Radical Dance Faction, and date from the early-mid 1990s yet I think that they perfectly capture where I think that Britain seems to be heading and no, it isn’t a cheerful place.

The music rocks though.

poverty_2269121b

A Right Old Two & Eight

Plans are afoot to make the terminally ill work in order to receive benefits. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened the story, shared on Facecrack just now, as I had just finished the most recent part of a new story set in near future Britain where the narrator is recounting facing an eerily similar situation himself. (Very rough unfinished draft here) This comes as the latest in a wave of horrifying attacks from the millionaires in Whitehall against the working people of this island. Attacks that have seen people starving to death, taking their own lives to be free of the hardships and humiliations heaped upon them, dying because they can’t afford to refrigerate their medication, thousands upon thousands of people forced to resort to charitable handouts from food banks. On and on it goes, colder and colder it grows.

I’m reminded of the introduction to Alan Moore’s masterful analysis of the Thatcher regime, V for Vendetta, in which Moore says:

Naivete can be detected in my supposition that it would take something as melodramatic as a near-miss nuclear conflict to edge England towards fascism.

“It’s 1988 now. Margaret Thatcher is entering her third term of office and talking confidently of an unbroken Conservative leadership well into the next century. My youngest daughter is seven and the tabloid press are circulating the idea of concentration camps for persons with AIDS. The new riot police wear black visors, as do their horses, and their vans have rotating video cameras mounted on top. The government have expressed a desire to eradicate homosexuality, even as an abstract concept, and one can only speculate as to which minority will be next legislated against. I’m thinking of taking my family and getting out of this country soon, sometime over the next couple of years. Its cold and its mean spirited and I don’t like it here any more.
Goodnight England. Goodnight Home Service and V for Victory.
Hello the Voice of Fate and V for Vendetta

It is cold here. It is cold and mean spirited. I’ve never been the biggest fan of what passes for ‘British culture’ but now it seems that all the bitterness and spite that sits quietly poisoning our society is coming to the fore. We’re luckier than some, the Family Strange, as C and I both have, hard won, university educations and so have at least the potential of finding jobs that will allow us to escape these small minded tiny islands.  Is it right to consider jumping ship merely because we can? Are we rats deserting a sinking ship? Should we not stay and try to fight alongside our fellow islanders? Our class? But that means that we likely condemn Little Ms X through our choices. At least if we flee then we allow her the potential to grow and live somewhere that isn’t being dragged so rapidly into a Neo-Victorian age of misery and dread. The choice seems made.

What Makes Britain ‘Great’?

I’ve just been made aware of the poster campaign to remind us what makes Britain ‘great’.  Seriously? First off Britain has the lowest quality of life in Europe. Secondly? WTF??? This is a poster campaign designed to stir feelings of national pride with regards the fact that we have, through mere happenstance(and our parents doing the nasty), been born on a largish island off the north coast of Europe.

Which is pretty daft at best.

But to have a campaign that has as its central premise a misunderstanding of what the country you are supposed to be feeling proud in is called is the height of insanity!

Can’t these people even be bothered to check wiki-sodding-pedia before spreading their pish?

After the Old English period, Britain was used as a historical term only. Geoffrey of Monmouth in his pseudohistorical Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136) refers to the island of Great Britain as Britannia major (“Greater Britain”), to distinguish it from Britannia minor (“Lesser Britain”), the continental region which approximates to modern Brittany.