The world of scripted fiction podcasting is a growing and artful storytelling medium, as engaging and gripping as any other. The format harkens back to the days of radio plays when a story like H.G. Wells’ WAR OF THE WORLDS was broadcast on a spooky October night in 1938. The performance was so frightening, some listeners were convinced they were listening to an actual alien invasion happening across radio waves in real-time.
The medium has transformed from live performances to full productions featuring some of today’s biggest artistic talents. The Audible Original feature, CATCHERS, from creator Ben Rock, is among the latest of effective and frightening audio-only stories to be told in this format.
The story, written by Ben Rock and Bob DeRosa, and directed by Rock, is the account of Blair, a Gen-Zer, on her first day on the job in the “animal control” department of her community, AKA…a dog catcher. She’s paired up with an almost-Boomer, Collins, on his last day at the job, whose disagreeable and dated outlook clashes with Blair’s modern and more woke approach. They’ll have to set their differences aside, or perhaps learn from them, when they receive a call about some strange goings-on at a local farm.
There are many factors that make a fictional podcast effective. The vocal talent brings a lot to this production. Herizen F. Guardiola, as Blair, brings the strength of youth to her role, driven and brave throughout. She is an excellent hero in this creepy, fast-paced tale. Billy Gardell, as Collins balances the aged, curmudgeonly animal control veteran as simultaneously unlikable and endearing—like sitting at the Thanksgiving table with your midwestern grandpa. He allows for growth that makes sense within the text. A notable shout-out is due to Bonita Friedericy, who plays Glenda, a local bar owner. Her brief role is played with humor and sincerity. The entire cast is excellent.
Rock is no stranger when it comes to storytelling in this medium. His fiction podcast VIDEO PALACE (2018) for Shudder was every bit as creepy and fun as CATCHERS. Here he utilizes an excellent sense of tension and suspense, bringing in eerie sound effects and utilizing an effective score as well. Steven Johnson and Thom Monaham make up the sound department, and whatever effect they created for the creature’s shrieky roar induces shivers and entices listeners’ tiny hairs on the back of their necks to stand straight up.
I love this medium. In a world of screen-based entertainment, I love to put in a pair of earbuds, turn down the lights, lay down on the couch, close my eyes, and listen to a story told by artists through many forms. Podcasting is an intimate art—it’s inside the ears, inside the head. It allows a part of our imagination to take over. I fear we don’t use it as often as we should these days.
Allowing yourself the 2 hours and 20ish minutes to listen to the podcast straight through will absolutely benefit the experience.
CATCHERS is available to listen to on Audible.