Who Said Podcasts Can't be Terrifying? A Review of Shudder's First Original Podcast "Video Palace"
Hello again listeners! I am doing something entirely different this week. As listeners of the podcast know, a few weeks ago we had Ben Rock on the show. Ben has quite the long list of credentials, from being one of the guys who created “The Blair Witch Project” and directed the horror/sci-fi film “Alien Raiders”. His most recent project is a faux-documentary podcast for Shudder, called “Video Palace”. At the time of our interview, we were only a few episodes into the pod but Justin and I were patiently waiting to see where this story went. Season One wrapped last Friday, and woof. This was the first podcast I had ever listened to like this, and like I said during the interview it reminded me a lot of Orson Welles’ radio drama “War of the Worlds”. So did the show deliver? Was the acting great? Was the plot coherent and well developed? Read until the end and find out…
As always for my written reviews, we start with the 100 word plot summary. The podcast is ten episodes long, each ranging from 20-30 minutes in length. So I am going to do my best to do the plot justice.
Mark is a VHS collector and comes across a white VHS that causes him to have a strange reaction. Along with his girlfriend Tamra, they start to research the white tapes. They discover that they were all created at an old store called “Video Palace” which had a special place in the heart of one Thurman Mueller, whom owned the first white tape Mark found. They continue their research and end up owning four white tapes. After finding another member of the old store, Randy Wane, they break into his shop to find answers. Mark goes back without Tamra, weird things happen, and Tamra is left alone to find Mark.
110 words, pretty close to my goal but man did I have to skip a lot to fit it all in. You really need to listen to the episodes to get all the fine details because just like a TV Show, it is the character development that drives most of this story… well that and the mystery of the white video tapes….
- I am not a Shudder member, so I had no option to binge “Video Palace”. I got my episodes twice a week, Mondays and Fridays. It was an effort of self-control to not get a Shudder account and plow through this show. Mark’s story is amazing, and kept me compelled from Episode One to Episode Ten. The mystery is deep, well fleshed out, and realistic in a very creepy way.
- All of the side characters are amazingly developed. Even the characters who only have a few lines or appear in only an episode or two feel like real people and I sometimes found myself wondering where that character ended up heading further on their character arc.
- The Video Palace and the eyeless man are great villains. I want to know more about them. I NEED to know more about them. Bring on Season Two!
- This leads me to my only con. The last episode left me with a great deal of questions. And Tamra even hits on them during her wrap up of what happened. Who was all in that basement? What were they doing down there? Is this an alien thing or more of an Elder God thing? I know there has to be some tease for Season Two (which better happen!!) but I really felt like there were just too many cliffhangers.
9 out of 10
- Nothing negative to say here. You can tell that this is a professional podcast made by professionals. The mixing is perfect, drops and edits are perfect. Probably a negative could be that because it is so flawless it is very apparent that this is fictional, but I think we all already knew that!
10 out of 10
- I want to start with the acting. With the cast led by Chase Williamson (John Dies at the End) and Devin Sidell (31), all around the acting is amazing. We talked to Ben about how he went about getting the reactions he wanted even though this is all voice acted (check out the podcast for more) but man did he get his actors to deliver. They are just in a sound stage, but you feel like there are dozens of people surrounding their car, trying to get in. Just fantastic.
- The music and sound effects are also great! This podcast is presented as an edited documentary, with the characters being the ones dropping in the audio and themes. The music and drops used perfectly fit this motif and makes the story all the better.
- Last but not least, they do a great job at making sure the characters all have a unique voice. In an audio drama like this, it is very easy to not be able to differentiate between characters. I never found myself caught up in this way, and that is part of the reason why the side characters are so well developed.
- Really only one problem for me, sometimes when the drama gets really high, it’s hard to follow what is going on. The two scenes for me that stick out are when Mark and Tamra flee the piano shop and when Mark is caught in the basement in Episode 10. It is just that there is so much taking place, that in audio form sometimes it is hard to stay in the moment of the drama and I found myself having to listen back through again to make sure I followed what happened.
9 out of 10
This is a very easy section for me to review. This podcast is scary as Hell! Ben Rock and Bob DeRosa really delivered on the script and the actors delivered it to perfection. I never knew I could fear a VHS and a Blockbuster knock-off, but now when I drive by the local video rental store I definitely catch myself taking a second glance at it. The eyeless man is up there in my favorite horror monster list now, even though we really don’t know what it looks like. And poor Mark. I can easily see myself falling down a rabbit hole like this, and I don’t know if I would be able to stop or end up in the same spot as him. Sometimes it’s best to stay in the dark, because the light is a little too terrifying.
10 out of 10
So with all those scores added and averaged, I ended up giving “Video Palace” a 95% A. It is certainly well deserved. I am hoping and praying on a second season, and according to Ben on Twitter Shudder is partially making their decision upon reviews. So take about four hours of your life, binge this podcast, and write a review. Because I NEED to know what happened to Mark.