In a gripping Fort Boyard meets Blair Witch Project spectacular, ITV’s new game show, Release the Hounds, makes for great Monday evening’s entertainment.
Latching onto an age-old audience fascination with watching other people struggle through terrifying ordeals, the show sees three big-personalitied friends complete tasks designed to scare and shock, in order to secure keys to boxes of cash (£3k,£6k, £9k) hidden in the haunted wood. The twist? In order to escape with the cash, each contestant must race a pack of frenzied hounds to the finish, their head start determined by the speed at which they completed the previous challenge. If the contestants are caught by the hounds… well, that’s the last we see of them.
Stylistically, Release the Hounds is more akin to a video game than game show, with real character journeys, giving the whole reality show a chilling narrative edge. This ain’t no Family Fortunes. Grown men shudder with genuine fear, friends engage in fierce arguments and every challenge provides real jeopardy, all making for compelling, if a tad sadistic viewing.
The production value is excellent, with innovative camera work, meticulously designed sets and a host of cliché horror movie sound effects which intensify every move. Fast moving action cuts between fixed rig, GoPro and handheld cameras, pre-shot close-ups and overhead panoramic sweeps, full colour and night vision, constantly keeping the viewer on edge, whilst tactically poised ad breaks punctuate moments of the highest drama. The action takes place in a variety of nightmarish interior and exterior locations feat. zombies, ripped up teddy bears, dolls houses, rats, torture devices and little girls in corners.
The latest episode, featuring a hardy woman, her Action-man ex and her squealingly camp best friend, was flavoured by a moralistic face-your-fear-and-become-a-stronger-person denouement when the seemingly weakest link undertook the final rat-infested challenge and was the only contestant to escape the dogs with £9k. Intrigued to find out whether the next brave batch will have been as carefully selected.
Worth a watch.