Fright Encounters of an Aural Kind? “Video Palace” podcast about horror’s legendary “White Tapes” gets chills with just sound

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It sounds like a movie pitch.

Guy starts talking in his sleep, somniloquy, the phenomenon is called. He’s hoarsely whispering in a strange tongue. His significant other records him, and what he’s muttering sounds like something he heard on a little seen, unmarked and mysteriously unknown horror movie, preserved on VHS video in a white box.

And these “white tapes” seem to come from a long-closed videotape emporium, “The Video Palace.” Our somniloquent hero, Mark, a video editor by trade, sets out to talk to experts in “white tape” horror; interviews with horror bloggers, producers, collectors and aficionados, trying to unravel what he’s saying, what he’s watched and what a movie “that you watch, that watches you back” might mean.

Mark will make this journey and record it as his podcast. So it’s not a movie…yet.

Still, this podcast about a podcaster is up to its eyeballs in horror fandom, with hints of “The Ring” and “The Blair Witch Project” and any tale that sends the curious looking for that which should not be found abound, with bloggers, oddball collectors, fearful myth-believers and skeptics littering the supporting cast.

“Video Palace” is a part of AMC NEtworks “Shudder” channel. The series has Ben Rock (“Alien Raiders,” “Shadow of the Blair Witch”) as director, Bob DeRosa (“Killers” “White Collar”) as writer and was created by Nick Braccia and Michael  Monello (he produced and dreamed up the ingenious marketing for “The Blair Witch Project”).

It’s available on iTunes here. 

It’s a 10 episode series, and the cast includes Chase Williamson (John Dies at the End) and Devin Sidell (31) along with Bonita Freidericy (Preacher), Larry Cedar (Twilight Zone: The Movie), Leon Russom (A Quiet Place) and Justin Welborn (Beyond the Gates).

The explosion of podcasting — talk shows, performance programs, dramas, comedies etc. in forms that mimic radio suggests that we’ve entered a new Golden Age of Radio Drama — pre-recorded, listen-at-your-leisure and typically on-your-phone programs in all the genres radio used to pursue before “format” and TSL (time spent listening) became broadcasting’s king and queen.

I’ve known these guys for years — hardcore horror buffs, most of them. They’ve got a clever concept that’s well-executed, not offering frights straight away, but building a mystery, a “universe,” with names (interview subjects) familiar to horror fans.

It’s immersive and pretty darned good. Bear in mind that I started my career in public radio during a period when NPR was doing binaural sound radio dramas and Stephen King works were making it on the air. Want to “see” the best version of “The Mist?” It was on the radio in 3D (binaural, headphones-only sound).

So the bar is high for such projects, inside my head anyway.

I love the way this connects to our fading memories of the video store experience, of “clam shells” (soft-sided VHS boxes), head cleaner and screen streaks that let you know a tape was on its last legs.

Or that the hairy horror from “The Ring” was coming out of that well to GETCHA.

So check out “Video Palace,” and explain to the kids coming up that “Be Kind, Rewind” was around long before Jack Black made a movie of that title.

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