Ginger Nuts of Horror
Requiem is a new supernatural drama premiering on BBC One on 02 Feb. To mark the launch of this new series Ginger Nuts of Horror is running a series of posts. Today we welcome Kris Mrksa, the writer and creator of Requiem to talk about the show.
For me, stories often coalesce when several apparently unrelated ideas collide, and I suddenly notice that they might actually be part of the very same story. Requiem grew out of just such a collision.
The first element was my lifelong passion for scary movies. I don’t mean the kind of in-your-face horror film that seems to be so ubiquitous these days. I’m talking about subtle-scary, the kind that trades on mood, and a sense of disquiet, slowly building to something that is ultimately far more disturbing and unsettling. There are a string of movies that do this beautifully but Don’t Look Now and Rosemary’s Baby sit on top of my hit list.
I found myself wondering whether that sensibility, with its sophistication, restraint, ambiguity, and psychological complexity might be transplanted into longer form television drama. Was there a way of maintaining it over 6 hours?
The second key ingredient was a fascination with the nature of personal identity. There seems to be a popular obsession with identity right now, with the idea that you might be able to find out who you “really” are, whether that’s through DNA testing, studying your family tree, or doing some sort of personal actualisation course. I’m doubtful about the value of this stuff, but I found myself pondering the compulsion that underlies these activities.
Most particularly, I found myself wondering about how a person might feel if they did get a definitive answer to the question “who am I, really?”, but it was not at all what they expected? If it turned everything they thought they knew about themselves on its head?
We’ve all seen stories that are kicked-off by the hero losing a loved one, but what if this story began with the hero losing herself?
The final element was not so much a story idea, as a mythological underpinning. I’d been reading about an alchemist and mystic, and I discovered that they had some very intriguing beliefs, based on a world view that was both idiosyncratic, yet surprisingly coherent. Suddenly, everywhere I looked, these philosophies started cropping up, in books and newspaper articles, on TV and in museum exhibits. And it just seemed too good to ignore.
You can see what I meant when I said that the three elements were apparently unconnected. It’s when I suddenly saw how they might all fit together, in a way that was surprising, yet also satisfyingly neat, that I knew I had a TV series. And so Requiem was born.
In 1994, a toddler disappeared from a small Welsh village, never to be seen again.
23 years later, rising cello star Matilda Gray while looking through her mother's possessions, Matilda discovers tantalising evidence, linking her mother to the Welsh girl’s disappearance all those years ago.
Matilda travels to Wales, determined to explore this mystery, even if it means unraveling her own identity. In the process, she uncovers long buried secrets in this remote community – including one secret more bizarre, terrifying and dangerous than anything she could have imagined: Dark otherworldly forces are gathering – they have been waiting many years for Matilda to arrive.
If every life is a story, then for most of us, it’s our parents who write the opening chapters. They record and remember our early childhoods as we cannot, acting as trusted witnesses to our lives.
But what if you discovered that your parent might have lied to you? That almost everything they’d said about their own history, and yours, might have been untrue?
Requiem takes its inspiration from the psychological horror films of the late 1960s and ‘70s - Rosemary’s Baby, Don’t Look Now, and The Innocents, avoiding easy answers, and instead playing on uncertainty and ambiguity.
It’s also a rumination on the nature of memory, identity, and loss, hinging on a universal truth: that when a parent dies, a part of you dies with them.
Requiem is written by Kris Mrksa (episodes 1-4 and 6) and Blake Ayshford (episode 5). The series is directed by Mahalia Belo, produced by Susan Breen and executive produced by Willow Grylls, Elaine Pyke and Charlie Pattinson for New Pictures, Kris Mrksa and Christopher Aird for BBC.
By creator and writer Kris Mrksa