Friday, December 17, 2010

Review: Scrimm in The Grandfather

The Grandfather is the latest release in Glass Eye Pix' audio drama series Tales from Beyond the Pale. Starring Tall Man Angus Scrimm in the title role, the episode runs thirty-nine minutes and costs a scant $1.99 to download from the official Pale website. Continue reading below for a review of the episode.

This journey beyond the pale is written and directed by filmmaker Graham Reznick, a highly qualified candidate for such a proceeding given his many credits as sound designer on Glass Eye productions. Katie Sheil plays the daughter of Angus Scrimm's character, Matt Huffman her husband and newcommer Michael D'Addadario their son - all three turning in convincing performances. The beautiful and talented Brenda Cooney plays the spirit of the grandmother, reuniting with Scrimm after both appearing in the quite good I Sell the Dead and Automatons. The trouble in The Grandfather begins with something the grandson overhears his parents saying, that they're going to have him put down at the vet next week. He shares this in private with his grandfather, who tries to make sense of it with little success. A descent into madness ensues.

In a word, The Grandfather is sublime horror entertainment. This entire series has taken the best parts of a forgotten art and brought them up to date with strikingly good production value. Reznick's story is fun and full of twists, unraveling itself strictly through dialogue rather than narration. It wasn't long before I found myself hanging onto every word, trying to predict the next story development before it happened. Reznick should be commended for writing characters that feel very real and actually interact as normal families so often do.

But, of course, Scrimm is the main attraction here and he superbly carries the episode with his vocals, turning in a memorable performance as a grandfather trying to remain sane in an increasingly insane world - but then again, is that really the case? Quite a bit of shifting in this story. It's so nice to see him playing a part not unlike his actual self - warm, congenial and thoughtful - as opposed to the sinister types he's so often cast as (and excels at playing, I might add).

After listening to The Grandfather, I have to wonder if Reznick didn't write the title role with Scrimm in mind. The character's mantra, "Family in the most important thing," is a maxim I could just as well hear coming from the performer himself, an easy claim considering I just did hear him say that in the episode, but you know what I mean. The grandfather also holds dear the family pet, which Scrimm does as well (though with dogs).

UPDATE: Scrimm confirms that his part was written specifically for him. Mystery solved!

The sound design is expertly handled and many times did I feel as though I was watching a movie with my eyes closed (which, I assure you, is the best way to experience this and any audio drama). Composer Jeff Grace contributes a terrificly catchy theme song that I'm hoping the Pale folks will make available for download. Glass Eye stalwart Larry Fessenden gives Rod Serling a run for his money as the narrator.

If you're even somewhat of a fan of Angus Scrimm, Glass Eye Pix or shows like The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, you really ought to give Tales From Beyond the Pale a listen. Sample a bit of this episode and download it at their official site.

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