Tuesday, 7 July 2015

"Crooked House" (TV, 2008, Damon Thomas)

Yeah, this blog generally covers movies, what with Kinematographically focused, but i hadn't added a review in a few days and had this one lying around.  Sue me.  No don't.  Or, yeah, waste your time if you like, i've got sod all.

Ghoulish goings on gratis from Gatiss

 As a long-time fan of British horror of the golden age, from the 1950s to the 1970s, i have always has a special fondness for the 'portmanteau' form of storytelling. Usually comprising three to five short stories interlinked by a framing story, this device was well used by Amicus films in such gems as "Asylum", "The House That Dripped Blood" and "From Beyond the Grave".

This BBC Christmas offering from a couple of years ago revived the format that has, i suppose, lain dormant since '80s US revivals such as "Creepshow" and "Tales from the Darkside". Written by actor and writer Mark Gatiss - no slouch when it comes to knowledge of the sinister side of the silver screen as his "History of Horror" documentaries proved - this tells us three tales involving the history of the sinister Geap Manor, relayed by a sinister museum curator (Gatiss) to a schoolteacher (Lee Ingleby).
The first story is set in one of Gatiss' favourite historical periods (at least going by League of Gentleman sketches and his Doctor Who story "Phantasmagoria"): Georgian Regency England. Philip Jackson plays the vile Bloxham, a mercenary capitalist who gets his comeuppance when his cherished new wainscoting turns out to be made from the wood of Tyburn gibbet and inhabited by the restless souls of hanged men. This story generates a nice period atmosphere, helped by supporting performances from Julian Rhind-Tutt and Andy Nyman, but not very much fear despite the best efforts of Jackson and the sound designer - going for a "The Haunting" type approach that sadly fails to come off.
The second story as far superior, some 1920s set whimsy at a party full of Waughian "Vile Bodies"-style Bright Young Things that slowly creeps into a tale of hushed family secrets, betrayal, and vengeance from beyond the grave. The legendary Jean Marsh, no stranger to the time of Charlestons and "Topping, what-what", appears as the grand dame of the family. I must confess, however, that my own attention was distracted somewhat by the gorgeous Anna Madeley as the haughty and snooty Katherine in her Cleopatra outfit. Ding dong, filly.
The closing tale of this trilogy of terror is a continuation of the wraparound story, as Ingleby's character finds his antique doorknocker, having once adorned the threshold of Geap Manor, has turned the doorway of his suburban Barratt Home into a portal into the past. Ingleby's growing sense of fear and panic as the tale wears on is almost palpable, and when the horrific Abomination appears in his front hall, crouched in the shadows before advancing like a Fuseli nightmare sprung to life, genuinely managed to spook this veteran of horror.
 While the revelation of the true nature of Gatiss' "caretaker" character and the twist ending are quite workoutable (is that a word? It should be), it is, as always, the journey that is important rather than the final destination.

A cold collation to chill the cockles at Christmastime. 


  1. Ah, something I have seen. I quite enjoyed this threesome although I can't remember an awful lot about it apart from loving Gatiss's deliciously fruity performance and the time travel twist at the end. Anyway, I request more TV horror. The Stone Tape, Whistle And I'll Come To You, Ghostwatch.. all that cool stuff.

  2. I may continue to meander into TV land on occasion. I rewatched all of the BBC 'Ghost Stories for Christmas' not long ago. If this blog had even been an evil glint in my eye at the time i'd have made notes. My memory's not shot yet, though, so i'll dredge up some daftness to type as and when:)

  3. This sounds like something I'd like to watch.

  4. It's quite a good specimen of the sub-genre, and well worth investigation.