The Stone Tapes 1972 *****

stonetape-mainNigel Kneale’s status as one of the great thinkers of the sci-fi and horror genre is largely based on his Quatermass quadrilogy, but there’s a number of other notable entries in his canon. 1972’s The Stone Tapes is a typically thoughtful supernatural drama, which dodges most of the potential clichés and comes up with some original stuff. Directed by horror specialist Peter Sasdy, The Stone Tapes is the story of a scientist Peter Brock (Michael Bryant) who has an eye on creating a recording format to replace tape. He and his ex Jill (Jane Asher) get involved in the renovation of a country house which dates back to Saxon times. The hidden room was used as a US army storeroom in WWII, and is rumoured to harbour a ghost. With neither jump scares or dream sequences to pad out the action, the focus is on Kneale’s brand of artful pseudo-science, which is always persuasive. The idea of ancient stone as a recording format which captures the energy of past events and plays them on a loop to those sensitive enough to pick the message up is a novel one, and there’s a great sequence where Jill starts to believe that their computer in Chicago has been possessed by malevolent spirits. Lo-fi production, but big ideas have made The Stone Tapes a deserved cult classic.

 

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