Chris Rogers writer on architecture and visual culture

Exclusive previews of the BBC's Halloween project for 2012

Ahearne - Crickley

The first trailer for The Secret of Crickley Hall was shown on BBC One last night, right before the Ten O’Clock News in the middle of the Olympic coverage. Douglas Henshall, Tom Ellis and Suranne Jones star. Joe Ahearne has once again given me a quick, exclusive update:

Yes it is Douglas Henshall as Augustus Cribben… he's a superb actor. The shoot went well and we're doing the final postproduction this month for transmission at Halloween.

Time flies. Not long to go…

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Amanda, whose young daughter is an actress, has contacted me with a lovely insight into the process of casting which she’s kindly allowed me to share. And by a nice co-incidence, Amanda also has a particular reason to be interested in the story. Writes Amanda:

My daughter is 11 so went to a casting for the part of Loren. It was very exciting for her as it would be a wonderful opportunity.

As a result of this, Amanda read the novel and “was hooked”. She continues:

I am now very interested in the whole project and am keen to know who will be playing the parts and how Joe Ahearne will adapt it for TV as there are some quite shocking and deeply disturbing events in the story and I wonder whether he will 'dilute' it.

I think it very unlikely Joe will dilute anything, given his history (see Revelations, for example) and what he has said, below. And the co-incidence? Well…

One of the reasons I love the story is because we live in a large old house, not as sinister and foreboding as Crickley Hall, but it has a similar history of housing orphans during the second world war. The orphanage was run by missionaries so lots of parallels - I am sure the couple who ran it were not as wicked as the Cribbens though!

I have done some research, I would like to do more when I have the time but have some quite detailed information about some of the children who lived here during the war.

And in case, like me, you still haven’t read the book…

Don't worry, I won't give away any of the plot but a great read if you can't wait until Halloween! If you speak to Joe put in a good word for my daughter!

I guess I’ll have to maintain a degree of impartiality, but good luck anyway!

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“It’s a ghost story” – Joe Ahearne on 'The Secret of Crickley Hall'

Posted 20 January 2012

On 11 January 2012, the BBC announced – as part of its forthcoming autumn schedule – a three-part adaptation of James Herbert’s novel The Secret of Crickley Hall, published in 2006, to be screened this Halloween.

It will be written and directed by Joe Ahearne, a name familiar to fans of intelligent science fiction, horror and suspense thanks to his outstanding work over the last decade on programmes as diverse as Ultraviolet, Apparitions, Strange, Trance, Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets and Doctor Who.

I devoured (as it were) Herbert’s books as a teenager and of course love Joe’s work, as you’ll know if you’ve read my article on this site. Fortunately, I’m in touch with Joe, having met him at a couple of club screenings over the years, and he kindly agreed to give me a mini sneak preview of this exciting project:

How familiar were you with Herbert’s work beforehand?

  I haven’t read Magic Cottage. I remember The Fog very fondly. Moments in it still
  make my eyes pop.

How did you come to be involved in the project?

  I was approached a couple of years ago by BBC North who asked me to read the
  book which I loved and it was as simple as that, for once.

How closely did it fit with ideas and concepts you’re drawn to and have explored in your work before?

  My interest in it comes from the opportunities it gives for a complete experience as
  director and for audience – visuals as well as performance. There is some
  incredible suspense in it and I’m a big Hitchcock fan as you know. The last hour
  is particularly nailbiting and I think is as powerful as anything I’ve attempted. It’s
  also very emotional.

I can't believe you've not gone there before, at least, not directly. Every time the classic ghost story idea is, er, resurrected for TV, the powers that be never seem to get it right
 
  Yes, ghost stories are hard to get right. I will let you know how it goes.

Having read the book, what do you think will be the biggest challenge in bringing the story to the screen?

  The biggest challenge is probably working with so many children at once. I’ve
  worked with children before but there are at least five major roles here, three of
  them aged five. Plus a dog. Plus rain. So wish me luck.

Well, I certainly do! If it can top – or even approach – Apparitions in tension... Luck duly wished, for kids, animals and effects. It’ll be a tough schedule, with casting still to come for instance, but hopefully Joe will be able to share a few more thoughts over the months.

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