‘The Children’s Film Foundation’ was founded in 1951 and over 30 years produced many high quality films and drama to healthily entertain the younger generation. Three of the stories are collected here under the ‘Scary Stories’ theme and that is an apt description for this trilogy of tales. I had never seen the series before but was recommended it by Amazon based on my previous purchases so thought why not give it a whirl?
‘The Man From Nowhere’ is the first and oldest of the tales and can be considered a gothic story, in terms of the atmosphere and mood created. A young orphaned girl, Alice, is sent to live with her rich uncle in an isolated country house but is soon menaced by a mysterious figure in black, warning her to leave the accursed place. The foreboding figure emerges suddenly and just as quickly vanishes into the ether, leading to the adults not believing Alice. With the help of some plucky local orphans Alice soon gets to the bottom of the mystery.
This is a gentle gothic tale but a well crafted one that builds tension as Alice is worried that she is losing her mind. A great start to the collection!
Tale two, ‘Haunters of the Deep,’ is a mystery thriller set against the dramatic backdrop of the Cornish coast. When an abandoned mine is found to contain a rich vein of precious metals, an American business man and his daughter come to investigate the possible investment opportunities. However, they ignore the warnings of an old miner who says that the mine is cursed with the ghosts of dead miners. When the prophecy of doom comes to pass, the businessman and miners are trapped in the tunnels with a supernatural force as well as the Atlantic Ocean seeping in.
For such a short tale the tension cranks up pretty quickly and the supernatural element is sufficiently spooky to be Dr Who-esque level scary.
The final tale, ‘Haunters of the Deep’, is shot on location in the village of Eyam, Derbyshire, a town known for being selfless when the villagers of the time quarantined themselves when the Black Death arrived there in 1665. The film relies on this fact to present a spooky tale about a young family who decide to move into a cottage there, only for the children to be plagued with visions from the past.
‘Out of the Darkness’ is an excellently presented children’s thriller which blends strong historical drama alongside solid acting from young and old cast alike. The last 15 or so minutes are genuinely quite tense and exciting and the fact that you learn a lot about the history of the area is a real boon.
Overall, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with this collection as all the stories were all effective and, considering the obvious budgetary and production limitations, well done with just enough spookiness to be mildly scary without terrifying the youths it was intended for. The child actors, who are in the lead roles for all of the tales, are all solid and perform honestly and earnestly without meandering onto cheesy melodrama.
At just under 3 hours this collection is pleasant stuff and, whilst not mind-blowing, is lovely matinee viewing at home with a nice cup of tea and biscuits. Preferably on a rainy Sunday….