Cast your mind back to June 2007. Gordon Brown becomes Prime Minister. England’s men’s team have just played their first game at the new Wembley. And there’s a near-10-year-old me that still gets scared at certain episodes of What's New, Scooby-Doo? (look, some of those ghosts are properly creepy, alright?).
My friends are already diving into Saw 3 and Trick 'r Treat, taking in the most extreme of extremities that the world of horror has to offer.
But not me. There’s not a chance I’m even dipping a toe into the genre, never mind diving in headfirst with an 18-rated fright fest. I’m more than happy to stick to comedies and cartoons, taking every measure imaginable to avoid the horrors of horror.
That is, until an episode of Doctor Who comes on the screen, featuring (or, rather, not really featuring) my Converse-wearing, pinstripe suit-donning idol in David Tennant’s 10th Time Lord, alongside Carey Mulligan’s Sally Sparrow, being hunted down by a group of angel statues out for blood.
That’s right, in the blink of an eye, Blink arrived - and so did my appreciation of what horror could do. (Or, at least, what it could do in a pre-watershed sci-fi series on the BBC - perfect for a fearful primary schooler like myself.)
Sure, this is no kill-heavy slasher in the form of Scream, and no paranormal mind-bender in the shape of The Conjuring, but Blink – perhaps the single most popular episode of the new Doctor Who era – demonstrates the genre’s ability to get under the skin and into the minds of the audience.
And, even with a PG rating and some questionable CGI, it does it masterfully well.
Blink’s greatest strength is its ability to establish a sense of creeping dread, of consistent threat, that is properly unnerving.
The feeling of being watched is one of the most disturbing one can experience, and has been explored throughout horror history - from Michael Myers taunting Laurie Strode from the shadows in 1978’s Halloween to Rory Kinnear’s birthday suit-wearing stalker drifting into the edge of the frame in last year’s Men, there’s very little that unsettles more than being followed.
There’s something mentally exhausting about the idea of never being able to rest, of not being able to drop your guard for even a moment, which can drive you insane - and Steven Moffat’s concrete-looking creations provide the perfect example of this.
You see, with the Weeping Angels, turning your back, trying to run away, or even taking your eye off their haunting expressions for a split second could spell the end of the road - just ask Amy Pond.
In the words of Tennant’s frantic Doctor, "Blink and you’re dead".
Is there any concept more terrifying than having the most basic human action rendered potentially life-threatening? This inescapable danger is draining, debilitating.
As we viewers watch Sally and Finlay Robertson’s Larry Nightingale navigate the nightmare they find themselves in, we grimace each time they turn their heads, and scream at the TV as we spot an angel moving ever closer.
It’s the sort of pulse-racing tension that only the horror genre can provide, and it lingers long in the memory.
Yet director Hettie Macdonald notches up the fear even further, ending the episode by turning her attention from Sally on the screen to us on the sofa at home, repeating Tennant’s iconic speech alongside real-life clips of gargoyles, statues and sculptures to ensure this isn’t just a concept that’s confined to the telly, but one that continues to stick with you even after you hit the big red button on the remote.
I know I, for one, lost many a night’s sleep in the weeks following that episode, as I feared that shutting my eyes to get some shut-eye would spell the end of my time on Earth (stop laughing, I said I was 10), and I’ll still remain resolute whenever I visit a cathedral or graveyard, determined to make sure those creepy creatures don’t get the drop on me. Thanks for that, Moffat.
As if the terror of being tailed from the shadows isn’t unnerving enough, though, the design of the Weeping Angels themselves ensures things are lifted to another level.
Visual effects producer Will Cohen and his team take something that is meant to be reassuring, gentle, holy, and turn it completely on its head.
As the angels switch from passive and peaceful to aggressive and menacing, their demonic faces take up the screen with a look of pure evil, accompanied by a smattering of thunder that still catches me off guard on the 18th watch.
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Similar to clowns in the likes of It or dolls in the likes of Chucky, there’s an added shock factor that comes with witnessing something that’s traditionally 'good' going bad. Where once there was joy, there’s now malice, a threat - and if good can turn against you, what can’t?
All of this is hammered home by the fantastic leading performance from Mulligan. Through Sally, we see an everyday protagonist thrown directly into hell. We could easily be Sally ourselves, confused, overwhelmed and completely out of our depth, making it easy to properly experience these horrors through her.
Like the aforementioned Laurie in Halloween or Sidney Prescott in the Scream franchise, Sparrow is in no way prepared for her journey, an ordinary person in an extraordinary scenario, who’s unable to fully rely on a hero’s help - instead having to find her own way out of trouble.
And Mulligan delivers the twists and turns of this torturous 45 minutes with all of the nuance you’d expect from a future Oscar nominee.
Yet, what makes Blink truly special is that it delivers all of these thrills, scares and mental scars without the need for excessive blood splatters or easy cliches.
Through the simple combination of a killer script, top performances and a toe-curlingly terrifying concept, this beloved episode of Doctor Who provides everything horror has to offer, all without leaving the confines of a PG rating.
It may have come out 16 years ago now (yes, it is really that long ago), but Blink is still the ideal introduction to the genre - and a perfect Halloween watch, if you’re too scared to see Saw.
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