Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Horrors of October - Garth Marenghi's Darkplace (#8)

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace (2004)

Suffering from "the worst artistic drought in broadcast history", the British station Channel 4 decided in 2004 to unearth and finally air "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace", a six-episode series from the 80's that was written, directed, and starred Marenghi. The horror novelist played Dr. Rick Dagless, M.D., a suave doctor at the Darkplace Hospital who's the only one capable of keeping the door to the supernatural world shut. The few companions who are able to help me with this endeavor are past, present and future-seeing psychic Dr. Liz Asher, the 2nd most handsome doctor of Darkplace Dr. Lucien Sanchez, and the bossy ball-buster Thornton Reed. At certain moments of every episode, new interviews with Marenghi and his publisher Dean Learner, who also played Reed, are included, where Marenghi often informs us of his writing process, such as how he knows what it would be like if somebody exploded.

In case you couldn't infer from that last note or how many times I said doctor, this show is a deliberate spoof of both Stephen King and the low-budget nature of horror television series. The idea originated from a comedy stage show created by Matthew Holness (Marenghi) and Richard Ayoade (Learner), who then translated it into this extremely hilarious one-season wonder. Though astute fans of British tele will identify Ayoade and co-star Matt Berry from "The IT Crowd", the trio plus actress Alice Lowe (SIGHTSEERS) all easily slip away into their roles as 80's actors/celebrities, largely thanks to the show's own artistic aesthetic. The show-within-the-show is an egotistic, colossal catastrophe, riddled with Ed Wood special effects, wooden acting, asinine dialogue, terrible editing, piss-poor audio and ADR, unexplainable direction, and random music video numbers. And it's all so damn funny; I was crying my eyes out by how many guffaws I was having. Holness and Ayoade pitch-perfectly nails the allure of "so bad, it's good" entertainment while also reenforcing the satire of people rose-tinting their nostalgia and artists that refuse to look at their works objectively. The entire cast, including the small players and cameos like Stephen Merchant, all do a great job but it's pretty hard to top Ayoade when he's Thornton Reed, because the abysmal acting skills of "Learner" hits way to close to home for bad movie lovers like myself. With only six episodes, the show doesn't loses its luster and you can easily re-watch it again and again; it's sadly not available on DVD here in the States but you can find it all on YouTube.


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