RogerBW's Blog

The Harrowing 02 August 2020

2020 horror audio in eight parts, by Mark Healy. On the island of Toll Mòr, a storm hits just after a murder is discovered, and the part-time policewoman has to deal with both.

But of course it can't be told that simply: this is a Modern Production and must do things in a Modern Way. So the whole thing is framed in flashback, as Sergeant O'Hara (Joanne Froggatt, who's had an extensive career with which I'm entirely unfamiliar) is called back in for yet another police interview about "the events".

But this horror story wants to be unexpected and unpredictable, and the frame story in particular is so very predictable that I felt let down at the end: here comes the hidden twist, plod plod plod, and is anyone really going to find that final "revelation" surprising? In 2020? Similarly, someone is blatantly set up to be perceived as a villain (to the point of being self-defeatingly silent when it would cost them nothing to speak), and then gosh wow turns out not to be. (It's not even a spoiler for anyone who's ever read a story before.) I think this is meant to be "starter horror", for an audience that's not at all familiar with the way things are conventionally done. Meanwhile promising plot threads are cut off before they get a chance to lead anywhere.

It's a shame, because when the series stops trying to be clever and fake out the listener and simply tells a story, it does an excellent job. Froggatt is all right, if nothing to shout about, but the supporting cast, particularly Stewart Scudamore and Sorcha Groundsell, make solid performances out of underwritten and often thankless parts. Sound design is a little overdone, but a lack of non-diegetic music gives an effectively stark feeling to the environment.

The series is freely available via acast and other sources.

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