Ginger Nuts of Horror
The BBC has had numerous successes with dark dramas centred around family secrets and the weight of the past haunting the present day. However, these dramas have always had both feet firmly planted in the realms of reality, as dark and twisted as they may be their sense of dread and tension always came from the actions of the mundane world that we all know so well. While it could be argued that many of those past dramas could be classed as horror, the creators were never brave enough to go "full horror", until now.
Lydia Wilson stars as Matilda, a talented young cellist, whose life is turned upside down minutes before the most important concert of her career. Looking for answers to a mystery that has been buried in her family Lydia travels to a Welsh town determined to unravel why she is connected to the tragic disappearance of a toddler 23 years ago.
Requiem, airing on 02 Feb on BBC1, is just what fans of horror and supernatural drama have been waiting for. Written and created by Kris Mrksa Requiem wastes no time in setting the tone for the rest of the series with a compelling opening scene filled with ghostly going ons and hints of long-buried secrets. On the surface, the opening scene to Requiem could easily have been part of a Midsummers Murder episode; a landed gent dressed all in tweed falls to his death at his country mansion is something we have seen countless times before in cosy dramas. However, the viewer is put in no doubt, thanks to an effective spooky handling of this opening scene; we are not in the safe and pleasant land of the traditional murder mystery.
Drawing on the unground swell of interest in Folk Horror, Requiem successfully blends supernatural elements into the more traditional framework of a BBC drama; we have haunted mansions, secretive Welsh communities, long forgotten secrets, prophetic dreams, and hints at something stirring in the dark corners of the Welsh town.
None of this may seem particularly original to the well-read or well-watched horror fan, and you will spot the references and influences in almost every scene, but this doesn't take away from the effectiveness of Requiem as a powerful and compelling drama. Mrksa handling of these elements is assured and respectful of the genre, forgoing the typical route of jump scares galore, Mrksa has woven a tight story that prefers to find the scares from atmosphere and tone rather than loud bangs and faces jumping out of the shadows. One scene involving Matilda's mother is particularly effective at invoking a sense of dread, and just when you think it is going to go one way (think red raincoat), Mrksa takes a sharp left turn to provide an unexpected shock. It is these touches that lift the script from something that we have seen before into some fresh and captivating.
Even his handling of the cliched insular village wary of outsiders is dealt with just enough originality to stop prevent the viewer from thinking that they have seen it all before. Hopefully, Mrksa will continue this throught the subsequent episodes.
Aiding the strong writing are two exceptional performances from the lead actors. Lydia Wilson is a revelation, with her icy blonde hair and fragile looks she is the perfect modern-day successor to the Hammer Horror heroines. Her performance as a woman whose life has been shattered is exceptional, a strong and convincing one filled with subtle layers.
While Lydia's performance is exceptional, it is Joel Fry's turn as Hal that is the real eye-opener. Having only ever seen him in comedic roles such as Plebs, you cold, like myself, be forgiven that he had a limited range as an actor, which is a shame as his rather good in here. His role could easily have fallen the down the hole of comedy foil, and while he does provide light relief from the more emotionally intense scenes, he never overplays it, allowing Hal's relationship with Matilda to develop into a very natural and convincing friendship.
Overlaying the script and acting performances is a wonderful
soundtrack filled with haunting cello music. The music cues are pitch-perfect, hinting at what is to come without ever taking over from what is happening on the screen.
Based on episode one Requiem is shaping up to be powerful, and chilling supernatural drama. There are enough scares to please fans of horror, yet it handles it in such a way that it shouldn't put off those who think horror is a dirty word. It's a hard thing to pull off, but Mrksa handles it with great success. Shows like Requiem have sadly been missing from terrestrial Tv schedules for far too long; hopefully, based on the strength of this opening episode, it will mark the return of intelligent supernatural drama.
The six-part series Requiem starts on BBC One on 02 February at 9pm.