Near a village in Cornwall there has been a tin mine for nearly a century, though it has been closed for some time. However, with the American boss of Aminico visiting the area, the signs are that the place could be reopened for business sometime soon. He has brought his daughter Becky (Amy Taylor) with him since he and his wife are divorced, and this represents a holiday for them both, though she is wondering what she can do to fill the hours when her father is exploring. That's when she notices young Josh (Gary Simmons) nearby, and tries to strike up a conversation...
Well, that doesn't sound very scary does it? Ah, but bide your time and there's a ghost or three who show up in this, one of the latterday Children's Film Foundation works which were by this stage, the mid-eighties, being credited to the CFTF, the "T" standing for "television", indicating the foundation was about to throw up its hands and give in, admitting the small screen had finally done for them once and for all. In truth, though it continued its business was already dwindling alarmingly, and soon the Conservative government would stop the Eady Levy which funded such British film projects.
Another way you can discern the influence of the box was that not only were the kids of the eighties more likely to catch these on TV - Friday afternoons on Children's BBC was often where they could be found, actually providing a cheap filler item for cost-conscious execs - but the productions were looking undeniably televisual as well. Indeed, with Haunters of the Deep's concentration on educating the viewer about the Cornish mining industry it could easily have been mistaken for one of those serials made for schools programming that would not appear out of place on something like Look and Read.
All it needed were various interruptions to teach you how to spell selected words with the help of a song and this would have slotted very neatly into the school day, as it probably did anyway as the kids were invited to gather around the television trolley with its newfangled video recorder and watch a proper movie, then try to mask their disappointment that it wasn't Return of the Jedi or something with a decent effects budget. What this had in that vein were some superimpositions, model work for the mines when the ocean threatens to intrude, and a mist machine for the appearance of the ghostly boy who shows the two kids the way to save the day.
Why do they need to save the day? It's all to do with what the crusty old gent Captain Tregellis (Andrew Keir) warns the mining company about, that basically the pit is the entrance to Hell itself and all Satan's fearful minions will spew forth should it be reopened. OK, he doesn't quite put it in so many words, but he does catch the interest of the two kids (was one an American in a desperate bid to appeal to overseas audiences, or was it down to Hollywood product being so prevalent and therefore desirable to the young audience so they could be attracted by association?) and they follow and ask him what he means. The Captain can recall when the Strangles Head (that's what it's called!) was closed down last time, and just knows in his bones to start up production again is bad news, which is entirely correct as Amy's dad and Josh's brother get trapped in a cave-in from which the ghost acts as a guide to rescue them. If you saw this as a child, you will have fond memories, but the C.F.F. was noticeably running out of steam by now. Music by Ed Welch.
[This is available on DVD under the title Scary Stories as part of the BFI's series of Children's Film Foundation releases, along with The Man from Nowhere and Out of the Darkness on the same disc.]