Audiobook - Dark Shadows: The House by the Sea

Dark Shadows: The House By The Sea

Listening to Dark Shadows audio, The House by the Sea, Susan Omand comes face to face with Colin Baker...

As the publisher’s synopsis says “Gerald Conway has come to Collinsport in pursuit of a dream.” However it is no ordinary dream as he has been consistently haunted by dreams and visions of a particular house as he wanders its corridors trying to find the source of a loud and insistent knocking, so much so that his long suffering wife suggests he “see someone” about his night terrors and his self proclaimed craziness. Then he sees the actual house on TV as part of an unrelated documentary and decides to go and find it to see if he can work out why he has a connection with it. He records his thoughts each day as he is at Collinsport, where he has managed to book the house for a holiday let, to have something to take back to the psychiatrist and this audio is that recording.

It starts off as an innocuous enough story. Day one. Rain. Day two. Gerald gives his thoughts about Collinsport being too quiet and that it “feels like it’s waiting for something to happen”. He describes the house and also tells of a welcome basket and an unusual note that was left for him at the house, along with something very odd – a tooth. In the afternoon recording he tells of a visit from the owner of the house, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. She tells him more about the house and how she has been unable to sell it because of a clause in the will of Caleb Collins who died a century ago. As she left though, he felt the room go cold for an instant. This is followed by another knock at the door and more teeth, not to mention a loud howling that Gerald attributes to the plumbing. The evening recording sees him just back from The Blue Whale bar where he had slightly too much to drink, despite his medication, in what appears to be a full bar. He finds out from Carolyn Stoddard and Dr Hoffman, who he met at the bar, more about the sender of the not. He also discovers that the bar is actually nearly empty and he realised he’s surrounded by the dead. Panicking, he runs out of the bar and back to the house, back to howling, knocking and even more teeth...

Was he really going mad? What was the secret behind the teeth? The howling? The knocking? And what did days 3 and 4, and a man he encounters on the clifftop, have in store for the guest in The House by the Sea?

This is meant to be an audio journal, recorded on a tape and aimed, initially at least, towards Conway’s psychiatrist, which gives the story a very much “found footage” feel and is entirely believable. This feel is enhanced by the lack of theme and background music with the excellent sound design adding effects very successfully as the only other noises on the tape other than voices. These, especially the clunking on and off of the mechanical tape recorder and the rewinding at the start, really bring the story to life and add to the psychological trauma of the tale, which is already very high thanks to the writing of James Goss and the direction of Joseph Lidster. The tension and intrigue in the story builds at a really good pace, not too slow as to be boring or dwelling on the mundane but not overly fast to be overwhelming, leading to a story that hooks you in and holds you for the full 60 minutes. The acting too, as you would expect from Colin Baker, is utterly sublime and he manages to make what is essentially an hour long monologue, with only occasional additional voices, completely compelling. The range of emotions he conveys, from cynically world weary to utter panic and madness, and the amount of engagement he evokes for his character is a masterclass in the art of audio.

A strong episode in the Dark Shadows series with good depth to the story and one I know I will get more from at every listen.

Image - Big Finish.