Tea in the Sahara
Kev – Fiction Podcast Critic
If like the UK you are hunkered down in another enforced covid lockdown and are looking for a new podcast to get your teeth into, you might just like this next review. Ghost Tape is another excellent immersive audio podcast introduced from those creative types down at QCODE. Those same creative types behind another insanely good podcast ‘Dirty Diana‘ which I reviewed a few months back, which you should also have a gander at.
The premise of horror audio drama Ghost Tape is centred around its lead protagonist Tessa Dixon played by the fantastic Kiersey Clemons, and a mysteriously haunted audiotape said to have been recorded during a massacre in the Vietnam war. QCODE has exceeded my expectations again with a stellar writer Alexandra E Hartman, and heavyweight co-creators Aron Eli Coleite (Netflix Locke & Key) & Nia DaCosta of movie reboot Candyman are more than capable of pushing that creative dark envelope. The show is directed by someone called Malakai, which I assume in that sense is like Madonna and only uses one creative name.
This psychological storyline starts with the recent suspected suicide/murder of Tessa’s grandfather, Byron Dixon. A distinguished military vet, voiced by the actor Bill Duke of vintage Predator movie fame. The podcasts are divided into sessions, and that is expanded on as every episode is set (so far) within a shrink’s office situated within Fort Taylor a Texas military training camp where Tessa is completing her basic training (still with me?)
The mysterious tape in question is said to be possessed by evil spirits of villagers savagely murdered during the Vietnam war some 40+ years ago, upon Tessa listening to the tape, she unwillingly releases the evil spirits. Within Tessa’s possession, the tape previously belonged to her late grandfather, who appears to communicate with Tessa via the tape as if stuck between two worlds, and he was indeed a genie trapped within the magic lamp.
Tessa perceives that this individual audiotape has more to do with Byron’s suspicious death and subsequent cover-up than the military is willing to let on. So spurned on with anger, fueled by hate of a heroin-addicted father Tessa enlists within the US army in the hope of somehow establishing the truth about her grandfather’s untimely demise. Oh, and the reason army recruit Tessa is in the brig (army prison) it’s because her battle buddy private Philips has gone missing casting further suspicions over Tessa’s recent erratic behaviour.
This podcast reminds me slightly of Hellraiser by Clive Barker, and that’s not in the sense of Hellraisers twisted macabre horror you witness from the film, more the similarities, or magnetic pull that the tape has over those who possess it. Once the owner has the tape they won’t let go, and for those who have held it, it will stop at nothing to retrieve it.
Ghost Tape really is a heavy-hitting audio drama at its best with Kiersey Clemons who is also an executive producer bringing to life a sassy, ballsy Tessa Dixon that doesn’t take sh*t from anyone, skillfully executed with reckless flamboyance! Tessa’s character is troubled that is for sure, and it is worth reminding listeners that this podcast does tap into some real-life raw subjects such as addiction, suicide, coming out as openly gay, and the horrors & brutality of war. So if you are someone who prefers their podcasts to have a rainbow happy ending twinned with a traditional love story, Ghost Tape might just not be the one for you.
The writing & acting is top-notch especially with the scenes between Tessa and the armies Psychiatrist Oscar Martinez, reminding me of that sexually charged scene from Basic Instinct where Sharon Stone’s character is taken into the police station for questioning at the beginning of the movie. And no before your mind wanders, not that specific scene you first thought of, more the tense atmosphere that the directors of that film created within that particular scene. The clever little nuances of a stereotypical office clock on the shrinks wall ticking away as the questioning becomes more stressful, and the deliberate nonchalance, evasiveness from Tessa’s responses towards his line of questioning is wonderfully scripted.
To add some much-needed humour to the podcast you should listen out for larger than life performances of Tessa’s grandma (Tessa’s dad’s side) who’s timing, and dry sarcasm add a touch of comedy to help briefly lighten the moment of this otherwise gripping audio drama. I must also mention the sound engineers, and music used within Ghost Tape as the mashup end theme music of a military march blended into what sounds like traditional Vietnamese music is outstanding; hats off to Darren Johnson, an award-winning pianist and composer & his team.
This has been a slightly longer review for a podcast-only three episodes old, but there is so much to unpack I didn’t want to write a review and miss anything out. So I will close with me playing detective and give you an early inner critic theory on Ghost Tape that has been kicking around in my head for a while. This might just be me and my overactive mind working overtime, but am I the only person that has picked up that Tessa mentions about being cold quite a bit? Now here is the curveball, is Tessa already dead and this is some weird ghostly paradox that we find ourselves listening to? Is she already possessed? Don’t call me Kojak just yet, but definitely food for thought.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this podcast review for ‘Ghost Tape’ which is definitely worth checking out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. If you are considering having your podcast reviewed by Tea in the Sahara you can reach me via my contact page. Do check out my reviews on Dirt, and Wandering with the Dead, if you are interested to see the level of detail which goes into one of my independent reviews.
Hopefully, if you have made it this far down the page you have enjoyed my style of writing? If you did why not check out my other reviews, and maybe like and leave me a comment (review links below!) Cheers, Kev.