Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Rats, walls and Nigel Kneale

This week's excitement has taken the form of an horrific bout of food poisoning. I've used the down-time to watch a few episodes of Beasts, Nigel Kneale's 1976 ITV series of short horror stories. Although I don't think I am alone in my estimation that these are not the writer's best works, I do feel each tale has its merits.

The series comprises of six hour-long stand-alone stories. Each concerns itself with animals in some way and reflect Kneale's preoccupations with ancient horror, primeval nature and terrors perceptible only to certain individuals. The first one I saw was During Barty's Party. I won't ruin it but it is a tale of petit bourgois paranoia, media hysteria and nature wreaking its revenge. Most importantly there are strong links to the HP Lovecraft story The Rats in the Walls. Both narratives play on our fear of packs of rats invading the spaces of our houses which we cannot reach. Their quasi-poltergeist ability to scratch and scuttle within the fabric of our homes is masterfully put to use in both tales.

Oddly a quick bit of google-fu tells me that Kneale professed not to have read any Lovecraft, so we must put down any similarities to great minds thinking alike. In Barty's Party the rats are horrific in themselves, while in Walls they are herald to a much greater horror so primeval in stature that Kneale would most certainly approved. In real life I think Mother Nature would begin her campaign of revenge not with rats but with infection. And quite possibly food poisoning....


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