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Sour Hall Review: Northern Gothic With a Lesbian Twist

Audible's Sour Hall review

Sour Hall follows the story of George (Lucy Fallon) and Ash (Pearl Mackie), an interracial couple who move to the Yorkshire moors. The farm has been in George’s family for generations and, after a fire claimed her father’s life, Sour Hall belongs to her. In the aftermath of a miscarriage, looking for a fresh start, Ash decides to join her.

In the beginning of this it looks as though George and Ash will be living the dream of Cottagecore lesbians around the world. But where George takes to life making artisanal cheese and butter, Ash feels very much an outsider. A Black woman and city girl, she has trouble being accepted by the farming community. Ash can’t even get groceries without running up against racism. And the locals aren’t the only hostile presence.

The dairy is haunted. It’s home to a bogart, which feeds on these new tensions in their relationship as well as the traumas George and Ash carry with them. Playing on her worst fears, the bogart threatens not only Ash’s sanity but her life. Sour Hall is not easy listening. But once you get going it’s very hard to stop.

Audible have once again knocked it out of the park by telling a compelling lesbian story. Recorded in partial 360 degree sound on location in Yorkshire, this drama has a powerful atmosphere. And – drawing on the long tradition of radio plays – Sour Hall makes brilliant use of sound effects. The flickering of lightbulbs, the banging of the dairy door, the unsettling pulse of a foetal heartbeat – all of these sounds elevate Sour Hall from a story to an experience. This genius stage direction builds a tension that is, at points, almost unbearable.

There’s no denying that Sour Hall deals with some painful topics. Miscarriage, abuse, and sexual violence are recurring themes. Every episode begins with a content warning, and for good reason. But the realness of those issues intermingled with the haunting makes Sour Hall a spine-tingling work of horror. There will be several moments where listeners ask themselves – is it the bogart George and Ash need to fear, or the violence of men?

Sour Hall dives headfirst into the difficulties of modern lesbian life: the challenges of building a family; navigating racial difference with a romantic partner; the struggle of maintaining a relationship when your family refuse to even acknowledge your girlfriend; the discomfort of being viewed as a sexual curiosity by men. That authenticity is what enables a lesbian audience to connect with George and Ash, to root for them against the odds.

Minor spoilers ahead. Be warned.

Horror is notorious for killing off Black characters first. And lesbian characters are treated as canon fodder in pretty much every genre. But while Sour Hall deals with racism and homophobia, it doesn’t recreate those patterns in storytelling. And that’s what makes it truly special.

Sour Hall is now free for Audible members.

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