X-Geeks

Sour Hall (Audiobook) Review

By Ben Wright (@iamzavagno | www.xgeeks.co.uk)

This review is spoiler-free.

Synopsis:

When George inherits her family farm it’s supposed to be a new start for her and her partner Ash, an escape from the chaotic pace of Manchester life and the traumatic incident that’s casting a shadow over their relationship.

George embraces country living and a burgeoning dairy business but a lonely Ash can’t settle – the farm is isolated and the villagers’ stares make clear their feelings about the inter-racial lesbian couple in their midst.

And then there is the strange banging coming from the milking shed which George won’t let her enter…. Ash is sure she can hear George whispering to someone or something inside….

A presence haunts the farm, one that feeds on fear itself, and it’s hungry. To survive, Ash and George must face past traumas and embrace the things that go bump in the night, or risk being destroyed by them.

Sour Hall is written and directed by Laura Kirwan-Ashman and is a much deeper exploration and expansion of Naomi Booth’s original short story. It contains a lot more fleshing out of the characters and their backstories, but there is no filler to be found here. Everything has its place and fits perfectly within this new take on the original narrative. Sour Hall is very much told and performed through the feminine gaze and this really helps deliver a compelling story full of rich characters and the type of storytelling that, sadly, is lacking in terms of wider mainstream attention. This is a story that does not succumb to the usual tropes and clichés and I can assure you that you’ll be guessing along and hooked after the first episode!

This was a binaural audio production that was recorded on location, and for something like a horror piece, this just adds to the overall atmosphere and immersion when listening. You are informed, before each episode, that this is best listened to with your headphones on and I could not agree more. If you are going to check this outstanding series out, I implore you to follow this direction and listen to this series the way it was intended.

As well as being informed about how to obtain the best listening experience of Sour Hall, they also warn you before each episode of topics and events that some may find upsetting. I really appreciated the fact that they took the time to put these trigger warnings in place. There is no skirting around it, Sour Hall covers and acts out some truly graphic and upsetting scenarios. These are not put there gratuitously or for simple shock value, they are very real moments that help establish and justify aspects of the story and the characters. Personal trauma, homophobia, misogyny, and racism are but a few of the elements interlaced within the narrative, and these are scenarios that are very real and are in no way ’hammed up’ needlessly for a work of fiction. With that said, and as dark as these moments are, please believe me when I say that there is also a lot of love, hope, and beauty within this series. These moments are blended perfectly so that both the light and the dark feed seamlessly into each other. At the core of this story, there is a lot of heart and I can safely say that this is as much a love story as it is a horror story.

While the more supernatural horror elements are well executed and genuinely terrifying and entertaining, for me, it was the exploration and revelations of these two loveable, yet struggling, characters that was the real source of my fascination. I think within the first ten minutes of the first episode, I felt a connection with both George (Lucy Fallon) and Ash (Pearl Mackie) and you buy into their relationship and the individual personalities of their characters. This is a huge testament to the writing as well as the performances, both of which are truly phenomenal. The rest of the supporting cast is just as impressive, with every single one of them putting in an authentic performance. I would also like to give a special mention to Andonis Anthony, who is unbelievably creepy and chilling as ‘The Boggart’. Due to the recording method, to have his character whispering all around you sent a genuine chill down my spine multiple times.

In terms of the technical aspects of the production, you won’t be found wanting. As previously mentioned, they used a binaural audio technique when recording and this really comes across well when listening along. The sound design overall is first class and the slick editing just helps build on the outstanding performances and gripping story. I think there is always a level of quality you expect from an Audible Original, but I think the team at Naked Productions should be very proud of what they have achieved here. It’s a truly wonderful production.

So what about the negatives? I apologise if this sounds a bit too ‘gushy’, but there are none. I tried and tried to pull away from my enjoyment and passion for Sour Hall. But even after countless hours listening back to try and find something, I could not find anything that stood out. Usually, in a production of this scale, there would be a wooden background character or a dip in the story, or a character attribute that doesn’t quite sit right. But the fact of the matter is that there are none of these things. I appreciate that this, for some, may hurt the validity of this review. But the production, performances, and story ticked every box for me, my honest opinion is that Sour Hall is an incredible audio series.

Sour Hall takes you on an emotional journey full of terror and love in equal measure. An outstanding technical production coupled with tremendous writing and direction is amplified by the captivating and courageous performances from stars Pearl Mackie and Lucy Fallon. Sour Hall is truly unsettling, gripping and a fascinating experience. A must listen with your headphones in and the lights off.

The complete series of Sour Hall is available now on Audible.

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