First released back in May of 2008, the first of Doug Bradley’s ‘Spine Chillers’ audiobooks took the form of a DVD video of the H.P. Lovecraft story ‘The Outsiders’ (1926).  The idea for an audiobook with an added visual element was born out of Bradley’s thoughts surrounding the lack of progression in the audio format whilst recording the audiobook for Clive Baker’s ‘Mr B. Gone’ (2007).  The end result is a spoken word presentation of Lovecraft’s short story, with visual imagery accompanying the audio track, such as illustrative pictures and brief computer generated animations.

DLS Synopsis:
He has been alone for so long, he can no longer recall anyone else.  His memories of how he came to be in this godforsaken castle have long since perished.  He has no recollection of who he is, where he might be, or any attribution towards his past.  He is truly alone and that is all that he can remember.

His surroundings are equally as bleak and foreboding.  No natural light can be seen anywhere in the gloomy castle where he spends the entirety of his existence.  His only knowledge of life outside of the vast stone walls of this castle is through the many books that line the inner castle walls.  Outside, amongst the vast forest of aged trees, a great tower can be seen extending upwards, out of the clawing canopy of the overbearing treeline.

And now, when he feels he can no longer take this never-ending depressive solitude, he decides to attempt to climb the colossal tower – or die trying.  Inside, after the spiralling stone staircase comes to an abrupt end, he has no option but to climb the remaining distance using footholds and gaps in the stone walls.  Eventually he makes it to the top of the tower.  His head pressed against the stone ceiling that with effort shifts, allowing him to clamber up into the room beyond.

And here, with the brilliant glare of the moon shining in through the gated break in the stone way, he finally feels natural light upon his body.  But upon looking out into the world outside, a terrible understanding of his previous existence will come crashing down upon him.  For he is and always has been an outsider...

DLS Review:
Lovecraft’s short ‘The Outsider’ is certainly an atmospheric one.  The story is told in the first-person perspective of this tragic individual, a veritable prisoner in the dark depths of a lonely castle.  Lovecraft paints a vivid picture of this isolated existence, with a wealth of emphasis put towards the sheer gloominess of the man’s lifelong prison.

His desperate climb up the inner-walls of the tower brings back memories of the dark struggles of the prisoner in Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Pit And The Pendulum’ (1842).  Indeed, once our narrator finally makes it to the stone ceiling of tower, the relief at forcing his way through the trapdoor is almost palpable.  His joy at finally reaching natural light one that instantly washes over the listener.

As the story continues it throws a number of twists at the reader that, although impactful in their delivery, are not wholly unpredictable for a piece of Lovecraftian fiction.  However, the ever-present atmosphere of utter desperation along with the dreamlike progression of this unnerving tale keeps the listener hanging on every single word spoken.

Doug Bradley’s chilling vocal tones bring this story to a whole new haunting life.  His voice seems to encapsulate the maddening confusion of our narrating character, his desperate innocence at his life-long incarceration and his overwhelming rejoicing at finally, after so many years, stepping out into the natural light of a world outside.

The imagery that accompanies Doug Bradley’s telling of the story is predominantly that of bold ‘graphic novel’ style illustrations that slowly move across the screen, bringing visual imagery to the already powerfully descriptive storyline.  Although this seems to work moderately well with the storyline, merely adding another successful element to the presentation, it is somewhat let down by a small number of pretty shoddy computer-generated animations. 

However, Bradley’s spine-chilling tones are always there to keep the mood and the atmosphere of the story where it should be.  And as the tale draws closer to its down beaten and depressingly bleak conclusion, Bradley manages to masterfully capture the utter surrender of our narrator in the slowly descending pitch of his voice.

Put quite frankly, this is one hell of a darkly atmospheric and truly fitting adaptation of one of Lovecraft’s most depressingly bleak stories.  It’s an absolute masterclass in powerfully vivid storytelling.

As well as the main DVD presentation, the DVD disc also includes additional audio versions for burning to CD, putting on a PC or converting to mp3 format, as well as an mpeg4 version which can be watched on any mobile device (all of which is explained in a brief note from Doug Bradley which can be found in a Word document on the disc). 

The audiobook lasts for a total of 16 minutes and 28 seconds.  

© DLS Reviews


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