Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Halloween Recommendation: Ghosts on the Underground

It's already October and this means: Halloween is upon us! You can hardly celebrate that night without some spooky movies, ghost stories and the like and there is also a great wealth of Halloween-themed media so this would be a good opportunity to recommend some appropriately creepy pieces of entertainment.

The 2006 documentary "Ghosts on the Underground" by Polar Media, originally made for Channel Five, is not Halloween-themed per se but it is a documentary about ghosts on the London Underground and thus perfect for the occasion. It remains one of my favourite documentaries to this day for a number of reasons.

First of all it is important to say, that you will very likely be able to enjoy this documentary whether you believe in ghosts or not because this documentary doesn't claim to do anything else but let railway workers on the Underground tell their stories about experiences they have had. It doesn't push any kind of truth about the existence of ghosts into your face, instead it presents the tales, provides some facts and lets the viewer decide for themselves what they make of it.

Another really beautiful thing about this documentary is the cinematography. You will see lots of beautiful and stylishly edited shots of the deserted London Underground at night, the way you'd never see it during the day when you travel through it. Even if you do not care about ghost stories at all, the documentary is worth watching just because it has these beautiful and stylish images of the Underground itself. The viewer is also able to take a look at areas that they would normally never be able to see, such as Kennington loop or maintenance tunnels. The sound design of this documentary is amazing as well. A nice and subtle selection of songs and tunes enhance the creepy but never blatant atmosphere and the narration by Paul McGann is quite neutral and tasteful.

I have watched American documentaries on ghosts before and they were loud, laughable and disgustingly sensationalist. This documentary is quite the opposite of that, an overall cool and neutral style of narration doesn't push the viewer to believe anything but does provide a chilling feeling for those that want to be chilled all the same.

The stories themselves are pleasantly goose-bumps inducing and after each story you are provided with a more or less related fact about that area of the Underground, which you can then either connect to the story that was told before or decide it's all a coincidence. Beyond the ghost stories the documentary additionally provides some historical information about the London Underground and points out that it's one of the oldest underground transportation networks in world history. Another part of the documentary is a sort of experiment that connects infrasound with the phenomenon of ghosts sightings and at a few locations of the Underground measurements of infrasound are made. You can argue whether this part has any scientific merit at all but I thought it was a nice touch and provided an alternate explanation for the ghostly phenomenons beyond "it must be the spirits of the deceased".

Overall, this documentary is just very fun to watch, contains beautiful and unusual imagery and never puts the viewer in an uncomfortable position, whether they believe in the subject matter of the documentary or not. From what I can tell, it must also be a shining star among ghost documentaries because, obviously, this is not the most respectable subject to make a documentary about and thus the relatively serious and neutral tone of the documentary is an achievement in and of itself.

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