Whose Boo Is Whose? by X. J. Kennedy

Two ghosts I know once traded heads

And shrieked and shook their sheets to shreds –

‘You’re me!’ yelled one, ‘and me, I’m you!

Now who can boo the loudest boo?’

 

‘Me!’ cried the other, and for proof

He booed a boo that scared the roof

Right off our house. The TV set

Jumped higher than a jumbo jet.

 

The first ghost snickered. ‘Why, you creep,

Call that a boo? That feeble beep?

Hear this!’ – and sucking in a blast

Of wind, he puffed his sheet so vast

 

And booed so hard, a passing goose

Lost all its down. The moon shook loose

And fell and smashed to smithereens –

Stars scattered like spilled jellybeans.

 

‘How’s that for booing, boy? I win,’

Said one. The other scratched a chin

Where only bone was – ‘Win or lose?

How can we tell whose boo is whose?’

 

by X J Kennedy

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Limer-eeks by Ann McGovern

A werewolf named Wendy is fair,

So long as the sun is up there.

But when the moon rises,

She puts on disguises –

With Fangs and a lot of coarse hair.


 

A ghoul and his girl, for a lark,

Went strolling one night in the park.

They stopped under a light

And the ghoul cried in fright

EEK! Quick, dear, get back in the dark.


 

It’s said there are spooks who find fun

In undoing things that are done.

They go to foot races

And untie shoelaces,

Then watch people trip as they run.


 

There once was a demon as green

As any there ever had been.

He would hide in the grass

To watch people pass,

Convinced that he couldn’t be seen.


 

There once was a pale apparition,

Who suffered from grave malnutrition.

Said Mom, ‘You’ll be a ghost,

If you don’t eat your toast.’

Answered he, ‘That’s just superstition.’


 

– all limericks are by Ann McGovern

The Living and the Dead Episode 6 and Overall Series Review

BBC Description for Episode 6: “After the events of recent weeks, Nathan and Charlotte’s marriage faces its greatest test yet.”



Credits:

Nathan Appleby: Colin Morgan
Charlotte Appleby: Charlotte Spencer
Matthew Denning: Nicholas Woodeson
Gwen Pearce: Kerrie Hayes
Gideon Langtree: Malcolm Storry
Lara: Chloe Pirrie
Sylvia: Diana Quick
William Payne: David Oakes
Gabriel: Arthur Bateman
Dr Kahn: Sudha Bhuchar
Ben: Royce Pierreson
Harriet Denning: Tallulah Haddon
Mary Denning: Marianne Oldham
Masked Man: Jacob Fortune-Lloyd
Writer: Simon Tyrrell
Producer: Eliza Mellor
Director: Sam Donovan
Psychiatric Nurse: Syrus Lowe


… I copy/paste these credits from the BBC’s website. Why is the actor Syrus Lowe credited after the major production staff roles? Either someone was lazy adding it to the end instead of in correct order next to Sudha Bhuchar who he shares scenes with …or maybe its time to play the [play the racism card] due to an unintended slip up.


Victim of the Week: Nathan by his nearest and dearest (dead and alive and, unintentionally, not even born yet). Charlotte I guess due to her husbands mental instability (I don’t side with such aggressive behaviour towards the mentally ill which is excused due to the person being ‘frustrated’). The town as a whole really as the landowner has gone downhill rapidly.



Synopsis:
Nathan is stood at the edge of the lake mirrored on its surface. He demands Gabriel show himself. He will do whatever it takes to see him.

We see a modern interior and someone asleep in bed. Rock-a-by-baby is being sung by a boy walking down the corridor towards the woman in her bed. ITs red coat. She always looks cross-eyed. She asks what Gabriel wants. ‘Help me’ he says. The boy’s a bad actor. This episode is going to be fun…

Red coat is being served breakfast in bed by a man. It seems she is a mental hospital patient. I wish I could say I’m surprised but this series really comes across as an ardent skeptic told to write fantasy and so goes about it in the most half-hearted derogatory way possible. She is given her pills to take. She has a visitor so she can go down to the day room and he will take care of the baby. It’s going to be an inanimate doll isn’t it? She spits the pills out.

Red Coat’s name is Lara. Ben told granny Lara had admitted herself for seeing things. It’s her granny who has visited her. Asks how the baby is. Lara saw the boy. So did Lara apparently. It was blamed on post-natal depression. postpartum psychosis in Lara’s case. Granny brings an attaché case out and has Lara open it. Nathan is her great-great grandfather. RIGHT WELL THERE WE GO END OF SERIES – LETS ALL LEAVE NOW. WE KNOW THE UNBORN BABY THUS SURVIVES AND DOOPDY DOOPDY DOO WE GET HERE AND THE FAMILY HAS VAGUE TELEPATHIC ABILITIES CASE CLOSED. Gran calls him a handsome devil. Lara also see the boy’s photo. Granny recounts that Gabriel drowned. And then they look at Nathan’s work book from 1894 the year her mother was conceived. Lara photo’s them with her tablet. The Appleby house, Shepzoy, was sold when Lara was a baby and all of this was hidden from Lara’s mother (who at this point is the missing link of this family) but Granny reflects she should have let her know.

Granny hopes seeing this doesn’t make it worse. Lara replies maybe that’s what she needs – to get worse. to get better. (Movie logic which in real life would never be beneficial). The staff members, and Asian doctor and a black attendant (from earlier) discuss Lara’s request to leave. She claims the hallucinations have stopped though only last week she was reporting suicidal ideation. ‘And the family history’ she adds at the end. Lara’s mother killed herself when Lara was three months old. The doctor decides they must keep her in – under section if necessary.

Lara’s baby (who is real) is cradled by its daddy. He is mixed race. Why am I mentioning people’s’ ethnicities? Well recently the BBC have really taken to their equal representation policy seriously by having casts for as many shows as possible to have multiple ethnicities. If you saw the recent War and Peace production it definitely has a more varied cast than the 1970s version. In shows of fantasy or family orientated programming, such as Merlin, they always ensure this. My point? They had an all white cast in this series until this episode and seem to feel the need to include as many non-white actors now they can during the modern parts and its a bit of an overkill. They’ve had black actors in Charles Dickens productions before so they could have had some of the itinerant field workers be non-white without breaking the quasi-realism of the series. It almost feels like they believe there were only Western European Caucasians in Britain in 1894. Admittedly other ethnicities were much rarer but for their mandate I think everyone would have excused it. Is that why this series was premiered online as a box set? Because someone thought it wasn’t representative enough? That is an awkward situation if so. I would rather they just get the best actors for the roles than give the impression that they are being forced to follow a mandate when needed.

They say its a shame that she has to say but they’re the professionals and know best. She sends her partner to get a toy left in the day room while she steals the car keys and escapes with her child. They head to the Appleby house. You would think it is being lived in but apparently not. Partner leaves her a voice message noting his missing keys and child, named Lottie, and is concerned but just wants to know they are alright.

They arrive at the house and we see her enter as she did at the end of one of the other episodes. In the window we see Gabriel looking down.

Back in 1894 Gwen tells Charlotte that Mr Payne is waiting for her. so that’s his role in the story is it? To swoop in and save Charlotte? Charlotte doesn’t want to see him and asks if Gwen has seen her husband. NO. Unfortunately Mr PAyne has turned up and they have an awkward exchange similar to Hugh Grant in a rom-com. He has a proposition for her. Nathan appears dishevelled. Mr Payne hopes they do not miss the workers who hae abandoned their farm ‘a lack of faith’ he offers as reason. Charlotte says ‘we do not lack faith’ to which Nathan laughs disjointedly.

Mr Payne wishes to purchase the two acres of marshy land that border his estate. ‘By the lane? It’s worthless’ Nathan replies. Mr Payne intends to drain the field on his side and pump it. Charlotte says it is ambitious and takes a shine to him. Nathan stalks towards him commenting on him ‘advancing with your speculator’s fortune, step by step, parading you innovation and determination (So Nathan is no longer the man he was at the start, a man of science and modernity, but obsessed by the supernatural). Qualities he notes his wife admires. So he is also paranoid now. He says he was joking when Charlotte gets this impression too. ‘The bog is yours if my wife is willing’ he says as he exits.

She excuses him saying ‘he has been working late. Writing.’ Mr Payne politely says he is a gifted man. She excuses herself. She goes to Nathan and says she has suffered through hell with him and his madness. She asks if they can at least appear competent. Author on board condemning of mental illness rather than demonstrating how societal norms have changed. If the intention was otherwise this dialogue was a bit clumsy.

He notes she is being cold with him after she asked him to be more animated and that he had lost the spring in his step. She says she is going with mr Payne to look ast the land because they need more money to pay wages. ‘to keep going’ he mocks as he has clearly given up on life since the revelations regarding his son’s spirit still being around. He comments ‘A good man, an ideal husband.’ as she walks away.

In the field Charlotte and Mr Payne discuss matters but her dress gets caught on a rusty piece of metal protruding from the land. Is Payne a killer who has hidden his wife’s corpse? It seems like they want to hint this, or some other hidden agenda, but don’t dedicate to it.

Back in the house Nathan appears at the door to the kitchen surprising Gwen. He mocks that she took him ‘for a ghost of my former self’. She offers him breakfast but he says his appetite seems to have waned. He asks about her hedge witch cures. She is a witch (albeit actually quite a fair depiction of the ‘wise/cunning man/woman’ who used to actually exsist providing folk remedies and such to thier local community. I wish they had made more of this not just toy with the idea to explain why she had poison – in an era where posions in all homes were even more commonplace than they are now). He wants to see those. She shows him them in her locked case. He looks through the bottles. He finds a bottle of psilocybin mushrooms – hallucinogenics which Gwen claims are ‘to help explore a difficulty, to see it, to feel it differently. To be used with caution’. He says he saw them being used on two melancholy patients. One, a woman, broke through her malaise emerging shaken but much better but the other, a man, saw more tha his doctor bargained for before taking his own life. ‘kill or cure’. He finds a bottle containing deadly nightshade. She says she has only used a trace as ‘more could be the death of you’. He sees why she locks it, thanks her and leaves. Quickly she locks it again looking concerned.

Charlotte returns with Mr Payne and speaks to Gideon the foreman. They are short-handed but he has a merge collection of turnips. She commiserates the effect it has had on him being one of the few left.’Thems that left got fainter hearts’ he assures her ‘maybe we don’t need them’… but he is an old man and the signs of the strain show on him. She says he saw her with mr Payne. She asks if Gideon can help dig up the abandoned machinery there. Gideon wonders if that’s what he is after. Charlotte laughs about it being buried treasure. She thanks him and invites him to the kitchen for some warm cider brandy when he is done. He continues his work having thanked her.

Charlotte returns to see Nathan trying to see Gabriel in a mirror but she distracts him by appearing in it instead.

The reverend Denning is walking down the road as more people leave declaring to him the place to be cursed. He hopes may the lord watch over them and is returned the courtesy. Charlotte is walking behind them. The Reverend invites her into the Wheatsheaf to sit by the fire. In the now empty pub he gives her warm sugar-water and a dash of brandy. He asks how her husband is. ‘Somewhat remote. More so every day’ she answers. Then she begins to tear up saying that their baby is growing inside her and she doesn’t know what to do. The reverend offers to talk to him. There is a lot of people thanking each other in this episode.

Denning finds Nathan in the forest wandering. ‘Lost you flock’ Nathan mocks. ‘Always hoping to find one gone astray’ the Reverend answers back. Nathan apologises for mishandling him and for what he did to Harriet, Denning’s Daughter, but he is best left alone now. Denning says Charlotte fears for Nathan’s happiness. ‘What is happiness? A man needs peace of mind. you have your faith. You should be in a monastery. If I had it I would be. I’d sit in a cell. I would watch the light move from wall to wall. I would contemplate eternity.‘ Denning challenges him that he would not miss the world, his wife or the child that is coming? Nathan speaks of Gabriel which Denning believes is causing Nathan to fear that he will lose this child as well. But maybe tis not fear but guilt but the pregnancy is a gift. ‘A gift of God‘, Nathan mocks, ‘so it was God who took my son away, sending down this angel with her book of light to lead him to his doom, she who appeared to you daughter and to me? I fear… I fear she hasn’t Denning. His soul is living. His soul, which you believe, is not at peace. He’s isolated, he’s tormented.

‘Its YOU you are describing!‘ shouts Denning. ‘You in purgatory unable to move on. And its you pulling others into your unhappiness. My daughter. The village. It’s you Nathan!

Me. The lost soul? I must find a way out.‘ he replies.

Denning tells him to be with his wife not the dead. Nathan mocks that its sensible advice.

Back in modern times Lara’s partner has left another voice mail asking if she is okay as she checks the house. She breathes heavily… just to make it more creepy. The house is unlit and she is using a torch. She goes up the creaking stairs leaving the baby alone. Gabriel appears near the baby and looks down on it making it cry. Lara appears with the torch under he face. She has Nathan’s snowglobe and has found the cot. She makes the fire and they sit in that room. She listens to her partner’s voice mail saying he needs her to pick up the phone. Apparently he had also texted her. She texts back ‘Sorry I left like that, I just need a few days we’re fine’. It is 22.00 and she looks at old photos on her tablet. Hell of a battery life on that thing then. She looks at photos of Charlie, Martha, Jack and Nathan’s book. She notes references to a book of light and sees the stick figure drawing and finally pieces together its her it’s referring to. Apparently its an iPad specifically. How she can tell the brand of the item I have no idea but then this is part funded by American money so who knows. She hears a door bang and goes to investigate.

In the corridor, only lit by her iPad, she tells Gabriel she knows who he is. She wants to help him but doesn’t know how. Gabriel says ‘he wants a new baby’ and before she can explain he has disappeared.

Bak in 1894 Nathan is writing. He criticises Charlotte for not knocking and disrupting his privacy while he tries to find privacy. She says he doesn’t want the new baby. She asks if he wants her to fall down the stair and give him his miscarriage. ‘No, of course not.’ She says it’s what he wants – she can ‘feel it like ice’. He asks why would he want her to miscarry? ‘Because you cannot bear to be a father again’ she answers disdainfully then leaves saying she is going away from his cold eyes. ‘What do you think I’ll do, freeze the baby in your womb? And you look at me as if I’m the mad one. But it’s you. You’re afraid of giving birth, of motherhood, and so you project this infanticidal urge onto me, making me the thing you fear, which is not only unfair… but stupid!‘ She answers back ‘And you’re so clever because you found a profession where you could feel less damaged because everyone else is damaged more… and now down here you have to face it. There’s something wrong with your mind… and your heart… and your soul!‘ He attacks saying he can’t recall what he liked about her. She leaves holding back tears. He apologises after she leaves.

She walks across the fields with a hat on looking lost inside.

He is in his study taking baby shoes and other items out fo a box. He says ‘just us now just you and me’ looking at a photo of Gabriel.

The next morning Gwen apologises for arriving late and asks if Charlotte is there. Nathan tells her to take a few days off. He says Charlotte is gone and the sooner Gwen follows the better. So Gwen leaves confused.

In modern-day Lara is filming a walk through the dilapidated house going towards the kitchen. She is filming it for her grandmother. How does she know where this place is if it was sold shortly after her birth and no one spoke of it? Presumably the granny told her but it was off-screen. There are modern fixtures in the house so it wasn’t empty too long ago. Theres graffiti tags on the wall and Lottie, the baby, begins to cry again. She sets up a baby monitor so she can go explore the house. Quite prepared for someone who fled a mental ward and headed straight to the house. Of course Gabriel is lurking in the background.

Lara reads Nathan’s note-book recounting how Gabriel’s guardian angel was otherwise. ‘Who is the woman with the book of light? Gabriel saw her too. he drew her, thinking she was a guardian angel when she was the opposite… come to take him away. Did you lure him to the lake that day and let him drown?

She speculates, to thin air, that Gabriel wants someone to blame. ‘Well that’s not me‘ she states defiantly. ‘I am not here to be punished‘.

Gabriel is looking at the baby.

She is sat outside smoking wondering to herself what she is doing.

Then back inside she has a voice message from granny saying Ben, her partner, is worried and maybe Granny should have told her as it was ‘playing with fire’. Really? You told your grand-daughter in a mental ward about where she might find answers to her ghost delusions and you thought it was okay? Granny can guess where she is and is sure Lara doesn’t want her to say where she is but if she doesn’t come back soon she’ll have to. She says not to stay there to long.

…um yeah just do it now. She has a baby with her. Seriously. If you were that concerned you would. Don’t do this just for narrative conventions as it’ll still take them long enough to get over to the house so there is plenty of time.

Lara hears Gabriel singing rock-a-by-baby to the baby. She rushes over and sees him stood across the room from the baby. She begins explaining that Gabriel’s daddy wished he never lost him as she’s seen his notebook and that her would ‘give anything, ANYTHING, to have [him] back’

‘He didn’t save me’ Gabriel replies.

That’s not his fault, it’s no ones fault‘ Lara replies. Yes it is. Gabriel fell in instead of being cautious and he wasn’t supervised by someone who could save him. Hell I kind of hope it’ll turn out to reference the witch drowning thing as a sudden twist so it’s the townsfolk who are at fault hence why they kept on about how cursed the place was. Lara says Nathan is so desperate to see Gabriel. Does she think Gabriel will pass on just because she said that or he can time travel then? She tells him to go to him and tell him he forgives him. Tell him your alright. Well obviously Gabriel doesn’t. He’s one of those sorts of ghosts’ The sort to hold an everlasting grudge that can’t be resolved. Face it this is a horror film setting. Gabriel part 5: Ring-Around-The-Corpses.

Back in 1894 Nathan breaks into Gwen’s stash of poultices. Well actually he just turns the key. That isn’t very secure then. Did he get the key off her at some point? I know you don’t have to show everything of screen, in fact some director’s make it part of their style, but when you mention how a character locks something away and the other accesses it so easily you have to indicate why. ‘Plot convenience’ isn’t enough. So he heats something deadly. Swallows it. The camera pans back slowly and we cut to Mr Payne stood by the fireplace of the vicarage as he heard Charlotte. He heard she was there and was just passing. He has a pineapple. She notes how odd it is to just be walking about with a pineapple.He says he heard it was good for expectant mothers although it maybe hogwash. WOAH SLOW DOWN 1) She’s still married you lotharo and 2) that’s quite needy 3) we get it, you’re the more balanced guy and the better option for her with you indulging in hearsay but also happy to dismiss it.

She thanks him saying she has kind neighbours as Mrs Denning lent her a dress, which he says becomes her, just as Harriet walks in the room. He excuses himself saying he must leave her rest. Harriet calls him Charlotte’s guardian angel. ‘ wouldn’t call him that’. Harriet suggests ‘A saviour, perhaps?’

We cut to Nathan swaying back and forth before the fire in the study. the ‘do not cross the hayfield’ song from a previous episode plays. He is delusional and calling himself ‘one of them, a lost soul’. He hears Gabriel’s voice beckon him saying he is going to sail his boat.

Nathan goes down to the lake and relives the day Gabriel drowned. Gabriel was poking the boat further on using a long stick and leaning out over the pond/lake. (It might be missing the point of his costume in this episode but as Nathan is in an undershirt and suspenders he looks like he is from a tribute band for Mumord and Sons.) Of course he doesn’t save him and we see Gabriel’s ghost looking up at him from the pond’s jetty.

He returns to the house distraught and does a ‘I’m in distress/deep remorse’ pose of agony. Then he hears Lara’s voice speaking to Lottie. He chases her up the stairs and she keeps turning corners so we narrowly miss her. He gets to the end room and sees Gabriel stood there. Nathan is glad to see him and beckons the boy to him. Gabriel doesn’t move. Nathan asks if ‘she’ is here but Gabriel says he is on his own. (Was the actor told to speak in a monotone or does that come naturally – it’s not good and its unbelievably distracting in this pivotal scene. Also his ‘ghost status’ seems to be informed by having some wet/recently dried hair). He tells the boy he has been looking for him. ‘I’ve been hiding’ the boy replies. Nathan asks if he didn’t want to see him to which his son replies ‘you didn’t want to see me’. Well that’s realistic kid dialogue so well done on that.

Again Nathan, now in front of his son, says he would give anything. Gabriel tells him ‘stay with me, Daddy. Look after me.’ ‘How’ asks Nathan. ‘You know how’ answers the boy…. oh my goodness this is far too realistic children’s dialogue. Nathan blinks and the ghost is gone.

In the modern-day Lara is stood at the lake. then the camera cuts back suddenly to the same shot and she leaves to go to the house. What was the point of that edit? It was like some attempt at a subtle jump scare.

Inside we see from her perspective filming bits of the interior lit by her torch. So I’m guessing we are going to get a jump scare. She calls out to Nathan by name asking if he wants to know who she is. She explains she is his great-great-grand daughter and isn’t trying to haunt him or his son. she just wants to get on with her life. She just wants to go home she sobs. she just needs prove she’s not mad.

Is the baby going to die ironically in a mirroring of his circumstances. If it does they’ve really telegraphed it.

She wants to see Nathan and he has seen her. She sees… Harriet?… in a bloody dress. SO yes there was a jumpscare… Oh also shaky cam. So the last 20 minutes of this series has shifted drastically from drama to horror I guess.

Back to third person and she slams a door behind her sniffling. She checks her recording but the girl wasn’t caught on it. She phones Ben and in tears explains she had to come here to stop it from haunting her and Lottie. He says the police are involved. She realises they know where she is and that Sylvia, a.k.a. granny, told him. She puts the phone off and packs everything up in order to run. She loads the car and drives away with Lottie.

We see Nathan stood in the road shielding his eyes. – Remember a few episodes ago? Yes it’s coming full circle seeing it from her perspective. It looks like we are going to be checking the list off of all their crossover moments. She sways off the road.

Next we see her lying down and Gabriel stood over her says ‘Daddy’s coming’ – Is she dead? Probably. She asks what Gabriel means. Well its obvious but he repeats himself. (You know I just realised who she reminds me of. She has the exact same face as the actor Kevin Sussman who plays Stuart Bloom, the eternally down on his luck comic book shop owner, from The Big Bang Theory).

Nathan dresses and sits writing. He has an Ernest Hemingway look today. He recalls things Charlotte said about being alive and there’s just her and him. He scrunches up the start of a letter to her. It seems days are passing by and he doesn’t know how to word this suicide letter to her.

Charlotte is speaking to Mr Payne about photography and how timing is essential and the amount of light you admit. GET IT ITS ABOUT NATHAN CLOSING HIMSELF OFF AND EVERYTHING. ‘Like the moment you capture between the taker and the taken’ GET IT HE’S MAKING A MOVE ON HER and she is smiling. She brushes a strand of loose hair aside and Mr Payne reaches for it. She excuses herself and says she must go home to her husband. BIT LATE NOW.

Nathan takes bottles from Gwen’s stock. Lara is walking down a corridor. She can see him through the interior door and its lace netting. He is using a pestle and mortar. She rushes in shouting ‘No Nathan, stop!’ REMEMBER THAT SCENE WHEN HE DROPPED THE PIG’S BLOOD – it’s that except she saw him making a deadly substance while from his side she appeared when he was going to wash the bucket out. Obviously the rooms empty when she gets inside but Gabriel appears.

‘He’s killing himself’ she declares, ‘what about his wife and baby?’ – Um… you’re in the future so you know how it turns out. Why are you speaking in the present tense as if you can change history? Anyway Gabriel, the littlest grim reaper, declares they can come too. No they can’t otherwise there’s a time paradox where Lara’s great-grandmother isn’t both. She shouts No, no at him and leaves as he stares blankly at her. I swear the boy’s related to someone on the crew since he seems to just be serving as a place holder.

Back in 1894 and Charlotte is heading down the road while Mr Payne calls after her. She’s on foot and he’s in his trap and pony. That seems more effort than it’s worth to be honest considering the time to get it all ready would cause.

He fears for them both, her condition and Nathan’s desperate state, he implores her to stop. He understands she loves Nathan but sometimes a man needs to be left alone to lick his own wounds. He asks she give him one more day alone and return tomorrow. Considering how confusing the editing has been regarding Nathan putting his clothes on multiple times I don’t know if one more day makes any real difference. Really it might be revealed this too is a bit non-chronological too and Nathan’s events occurred a week or two before Charlotte’s thus she will find a bloated rotting corpse either way.

Mr Payne asks to drive her back to the vicarage but she hears Lara call out to her from the nearby boundary. ‘He’s going to kill himself’ she shouts and Charlotte hears her.

…Wait so it’s not just Nathan’s bloodline, the local bloodline, which has ‘ghost/time travelling communication’ skills? Maybe because of the baby she has them temporarily? I’m joking obviously but it makes sense in context.

Mr Payne asks what the matter then grabs Charlotte’s arm saying ‘Must I force you, like a lunatic, for your own good?’ Oh So he’s an antagonist with false positive traits revealed in the final act then… which was kind of obvious. *cough*Hans*cough*Frozen* (okay he had the ‘almost shot a man running away’ thing too but that probably happened more in reality than anyone likes to admit). She tells him to unhand her and he does. Then he does puppy dog eyes which is hilarious. It is Gif bait if I ever saw any.

Rotting fruit and the empty swing then we see Nathan preparing his poultice. Charlotte walks in the y say its good to see each other. Nathan says he is sorry he has to do this. she asks how they got there when they were going to be so happy. ‘My fault’ he says ‘you were damaged when you met me. Deeper than I knew’. She replies saying ‘your secret ingredient. You insoluble grief… I believed that one day I;d find a solution, I might be the solution and just by being with you I would erode it’.
Which is a classic mistake of those who are around depressed people. Of course what does she do? Blame him some more. Which is realistic sadly. No wonder he is going to kill himself with support like that.

He says she made him so happy but he has seen ‘him’ out there and spoken to him etc. She says ‘if you believe it, I will believe it… I think I’ve known for some time. Maybe even from the beginning. you want to join him?’
[Okay on a side note, though it’s never properly mentioned, I am assuming that Gabriel is his son from an earlier union. If it was mentioned I completely missed it. Seriously at this moment you could see some underlying aspect of her being a woman wanting ‘good prospects’ and latching onto Nathan due to his weakness. It’s an extreme reading of her character but she seems a bit too obsessed with ‘making him happy’ when he wasn’t morbid but demeaned him and ran once he became difficult to deal with.]

‘You want to leave me?’ she asks.
‘No’, he replies, ‘but I have to’.
She says ‘No you don’t. Let’s go together. Let me drink first. Trust me’.
She cradles his face in her hand as she holds the drink.
‘Is it strong enough for both of us?’

He says she doesn’t have to do this but she insists she does because she can’t live without him. As she raises the glass to her lips he slaps it out of her hand shouting ‘no’! They embrace and cry and he sees Gabriel. He shouts ‘I’m sorry I wasnt there. I’m sorry I failed you.’ Is he saying it to Gabriel or Charlotte? You decide. Then he adds ‘…I let you die’ as Gabriel stands there staring at him. ‘I love you’ Nathan says smiling. Gabriel was apparently smiling but stops doing so and goes into a neutral face.

Charlotte says he’s gone. We see he is gone at the kitchen door. Nathan says he’s gone. Yes he is gone. Part of me wishes every other character, the dead and the living, came in saying ‘he’s gone’ too. Such a hammy over wrought moment… The music swells, Nathan smiles, Charlotte’s face… is non-committal but maybe concerned? They say they love each other.

Gideon, the foreman, is walking through the fields towards the house and the doors open. he is surprised to see her there and says it’s a tonic to see them both. They both thank him. Good dog, lie down, roll over, now play dead.

He tells them they’ve been digging the old machine out od the east marsh and thinks they should see it.

SEQUEL HOOK TWIST TIME!!!!!!!!
It’s Lara’s car being pulled up by tethered horses. The yellow modern one. So she went off the road. She is dead. More importantly these country bumpkin’s need to get off to the patent’s office and get this stuff registered. It would kick British industry ahead of the world by about a century! No loss of empire or any of that! Old Blighty would remain old Blighty evermore!

Denning and everyone left is present and don’t know what to make of it.

Gwen says ‘maybe this is what’s troubling the land?’ Denning says ‘if it was it’s all over now’. Everyone moves to get a closer look but Nathan. We get a quick camera zoom up on Lara at the lake as she is seeing these events unfold.

She begins to relive the car crash. The snowglobe flying through the air. Did you see the film ‘Dredd’ about 2000AD’s Judge Dredd? It’s like the slo-mo scenes from that with the same sort of music. We see her head hit the windscreen and she shouts ‘no’ and in the distance people are huddled together.

Gabriel takes her hand. She wonders what happened to Lottie. Gabriel says her father came and took her home. She wasn’t hurt and she’s safe. (He knows she is the mother so why not call Lottie her… oh maybe Lottie wasn’t her daughter just she was in a relationship with a single father?)

Gabriel says Lottie is his mummy now. (I got 9th Doctor Who vibes from him earlier on… you know the episode I mean. The one with the gas mask ghost virus). It makes her her own adoptive Great-Great Aunt too logically then. She looks down at him and smiles as the music swells.

Nathan turns around from the crowd and sees Gabriel and Lara hand in hand and walking away into the forest. He looks sad but smiles acceptingly. Or has gas. One or the other.

Summer 1895 we see standing stones and the house. They baby has been born and Nathan cradles it in his arms by the fire as Charlotte strokes its head. Then a short moment of the couple walking across the fields as the sun sets. The director must have realised they got the shot and didn’t want to waste it though it is a bit jarring. Maybe they could have used this at the standing stone bit a few seconds earlier?
As he lay away at night, Charlotte asleep next to him, Nathan hears a man’s voice calls out to him asking if he is there. A woman giggles. SEANCE SEANCE SEANCE He puts on his evening gown and goes to look. Lights are on downstairs. It’s a modern lamp. The woman is continually giggling for a good 15 seconds so the joke must have been hilarious. Nathan asks if anyone is there. The man asks if anyone is with us. They all look up from the table. They are dressed in 1920s cocktail dresses and tuxedos. The man says that the ‘notorious Nathan Appleby’ is with them when Nathan reaches the foot of the stairs. He welcomes him to the land of the living and wants to ask a question.

“Why did you kill your wife?”

DUN DUN DURR ZOOM IN ON HIS FACE
Blatant sequel baiting stinger/hook…



Review:
Do I want to see more? Personally I felt it wasn’t focused enough and the final scene on its own would have been an excellent twist. The Lara stuff was pointless. If they omitted her sequences to maintain the mystery (although she is a modern-day person obviously) this would be a far better series as the question of ‘is it ghosts or just mental illness and bad luck’ would have been more than strong enough. The car appearing in 1894 is completely out-of-place and some effort to create an unexplainable mystery to make people want answers. There will be time travel or more likely a return to the ‘its purgatory’ twist used in the writer’s previous work. I feel like there must have been some outside interference here insisting it be more like Life On Mars and so the modern era stuff was forced into it. Also I think the cinematography is very similar to Poldark so that either has the same team or they were told to replicate it as trailer fodder.

It felt uneven and I think it’s because they didn’t make clear certain things:

Charlotte’s relation to Gabriel (his biological mother or just the second wife of his father?)

Why did he return? Did his parents die? Did he leave after Gabriel’s death? Was there a first wife? (Well the ending implies this and maybe I just wasn’t paying attention when a first wife was mentioned – thus Charlotte is safe and it’s not going to be a case of ‘why did he kill Charlotte’ if there is a second series.)

Gwen’s sex scenes, except to make clear she isn’t a prim and proper Victorian woman (and imply paganism as ‘sex = pagan’ in some writer’s minds), provide nothing extra to the narrative. She is a hedge witch but these scenes feel forced in for no good reason and otherwise she is nothing but a sycophantic servant saying ‘yes sir/ma’m’ in most of her scenes.

Charlotte’s whole character development is a very jaded character. Initially she is a progressive woman in the early episodes, aping Bathsheba Everdene from the novel ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’, only to later give way to becoming a opportunisitic critic of her husband, abandoning him but then suddenly deciding in the end to love him once he seeks death. It paints a quite sexist image of women throughout the series as the only women not to be helpless or hysterical are those not focused on in any great detail (e.g. Mrs Denning, Charlie’s mother, field workers). Even more so than an intentionally sexist depiction it suggests Charlotte chose to break her vow, both marital and personal, to always support him which in those days was a very serious breach of decorum (and probably why novels like Moll Flanders and Anna Karenina were so popular of course).

Charlotte’s character seems to have taken a very sudden and severe shift. The progression from loving wife to hard-hearted mistress in this single episode has neither been developed over the series nor justified save that Nathan has given into his grief over his dead son. I have to wonder if there was a member of the production staff supervising the continuity of the series as we have a scene early on where Charlotte notes the dark side of Nathan’s personality and vows to be there for him to keep it from consuming him but when that time comes… she condemns him and moves into the Reverend’s house. Of course there was. This is no accident but an intentional development in her character and it is very bitter. Again the writers are showing a very pessimistic view of their character’s humanity towards each other under the guise of a Victorian ghost story series. When times are good she is loving. When they are bad she ascribes to the depiction of married women as harridens sniping at their suffering husband when given the opportunity. The recovery at the end is forced and far too quick. Would a woman who had fled the home because of her husbands mental instability really be so quick to return to him? She saw a ghost and that is all that is needed to recover the relationship? Convenient.

I cannot in the final scene feel any connection or sympathy with the main characters due to how throughout the series little effort, beyond heavyhanded moments, is made to endear them to the audience. They try but there is no energy in the interaction when you contrast it with something like Poldark. Maybe the actors didn’t have chemistry? But if that was the case edit around it, do things to create for the audience the atmosphere at least – not just a smile, giggle and kiss. This is a married couple not school children. Saying that maybe, in the event of there being a second season, we will be presented by people who knew Nathan before his son’s death and it be explained he has always been a bit detached. They tried at the start of the series with Charlotte saying how he had been stoic but… it all just rings so hollow in the end result.

Overall the series is well done on the technical side. The cinematography, lighting and sound are all to be commended. However all this is for naught in a multi episode drama if the script is weak and sadly I find fault in it time and time again. At the start of the series the near parodically unblemishable ‘goodness’ of the protagonists is almost a caricature. They come in and improve society taking up the reigns of the previous generation and try to improve it but, as whould be expected in a better drama, their challenges seem to have little effect on them. After the farming machinery fails it goes unmentioned until the last episode. People dying in the community seems to have little effect on their estate and day to day lives if they don’t get involved. They’re just drifting through the events of the series and only get truly affected once Gabriel becomes involved.

Perhaps the writers meant to show us how they are not so perfect with Charlotte’s efforts to be farm manager and to modernise the processes failing? But that conflict is a reasonable narrative drive for a storyline not a narrative device to be used so flippantly. Are we to accept that Charlotte, having purchased a very expensive piece of equipment, would leave it to rust after its initial breakdown? Even for that era the Applebys would have sought the aid of an engineer to repair the machine and ensure workers know how to maintain it correctly. But no its just gone after the first episode or so, and ignored until the last, to be a red herring for the reveal of the modern car. However it fails if that was the intention.

There is no consistent logic to the diegesis as we are meant to accept one thing at one point then expected to shift our opinion on the basis of a single scene. Charlotte the loving supportive wife becomes the damning wife over the course of one opening scene in episode 5 but after the attempted suicide at the denouemount of episode 6 we are to believe they made up so quickly? You can argue that between the suicide scene and the ‘twist’ in the series final scene that quite an extensive period of time has occurred. Enough that their daughter has been born and they have settled back into a routine but as the transition is so sudden the average audience will be caught unaware by the off-screen re-establishment of their relationship. Due to her quick assumption of the role as farm manager and her behaviour during Nathan’s mental breakdown she ultimately comes across more as a character concerned about control than a sympathetic figure who we are meant to vie for.

Nathan is a bland lead. We are told he is a practitioner of the new science of psychology thus a young, handsome, well off male protagonist who is also intelligent. However when do we see his skills used and not just suggested in passing? Admittedly they can only use the level of psychology that was available at the time which was pre-Freud/Jung. So what Nathan uses is an even more basic version than those now surpassed, yet well established in the public consciousness, landmark works. So how do they present it in the series? He hypnotises Harriet Denning twice during the series. You could argue he applies his skills when dealing with others during the series but really could we not argue that his words could have come from any other character in the positions he finds himself in? His major arc is seeing ghosts which he initially dismisses but eventually is driven to a state of high agitation by.

We see him in turn either be the authoritarian landowner ordering his workers about or in scenes where he sympathises with distraught characters – except he is at these points patronising them as he himself hasn’t seen Gabriel’s ghost yet which causes him to act in the exact same way as them. The change in his character is too sharp a turn. The fall from ‘man of science’ early on debating Denning to ‘occult dabbler’ hoping for reunion with his deceased son is done in the space of, the space of about 4 scenes bridging episodes 5 and 6.

The other characters are a mixed bag. Some have greater potential than they are allowed (Denning, Harriet and Charlie’s family), others serve their purpose well as supporting characters (Gideon, Maud Hare and her son) while others feel underdeveloped (Gwen, the old man of episode 2) and some poorly implemented (the deceased whose backstories serve as the crux of each episode specific story).

Each episode has a good concept for a standalone story but overall the narrative across the series doesn’t flow smoothly and feels more like we reach checkpoints where the next major development must occur. There is a way to do this but I feel that somewhere in the process, perhaps the episode editing, the developments occur so jarringly that we as an audience are given little time to accept developments and so with each episode the overarching storyline regarding Nathan and Gabriel, supported somewhat at odds with the modern-day narrative which itself ultimately serves little point other than to create plot teasing conveniences for the 1894 storyline, leaves the series feeling poorly paced and somewhat aimless unintentionally.

They seemed to have a theme to each episode but it was always handled clumsily. Episode one we had farming practises and possession. The end result was people were stuck in their old way and potentially lethal methods (baptism of an unconscious person which likely would result in drowning). Episode two was child labour. The end result was… inconclusive really. The story wrapped itself up but this episode does seem out of keeping with the tone or the rest of the series. Episode three we had anti-intellectualism with the character missing from the rest of the series. Episode four was elopement and homosexuality where, through a sequence of convoluted situations, the lovers are both dead and the lesbian is shot dead at point-blank range by the character depicted having heterosexual promiscuous encounters with itinerant-workers. Episode five Nathan has a mental breakdown due to seeing Gabriel’s ghost and Charlotte abandons him. Episode six Lara escapes a mental ward in a hospital with her baby runs away to the house and gets in a car crash having seen Nathan as a ghost.

Lovely life affirming messages and social commentary here. It doesn’t know if it wants to be. A drama discussing social issues, a supernatural horror or commentary of an isolated community. It wants to be something to everyone but ends up being a less than pleasing sequence of events featuring predominantly unlikable characters. The Dennings, Hares, Charlie’s and Gideon’s families are the backbone of the series and I wish it had focused on them with the Applebys being far less in focus as there was much more potential for the series as an ensemble piece than what we got.

I would however be happy to see a second series as there is great potential here and the technical side of the series is very strong if somewhat behind its contemporaries, in a period where many BBC dramas are almost nearing instant classics through both talent and the budget they receive allowing more freedom, but the writing and pacing here needs to be seriously focused on next time and anything like the modern-day teasers needs to be reviewed and potentially excised if it doesn’t serve the main storyline where it was little than a distraction and made the final episode a damp squib of a resolution.

Good idea, good technical side and good acting but something about the execution of the end result was off. Thus making this more in line with the Merlin, Musketeers, Atlantis level of BBC dramas and not anywhere near the level of Sherlock, War and Peace or the period dramas the BBC is famous for producing – nor indeed anywhere near the standard of writing we saw in Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes.


Comment, like or follow if you want. Or don’t. It seems like no one watched this in the end as seems the case with their adaptions of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent…

The Living and the Dead: Episode 4

Episode 4: “When a woman goes missing, Nathan must put his spiritual troubles aside to lead the rescue party. As he races to solve the mystery, Charlotte struggles with a secret of her own.”



Credits:
Nathan Appleby: Colin Morgan
Charlotte Appleby: Charlotte Spencer
Matthew Denning: Nicholas Woodeson
Gwen Pearce: Kerrie Hayes
Martha Enderby: Fiona O’Shaughnessy
Jack Langtree: Joel Gilman
Gideon Langtree: Malcolm Storry
Isiah Cobb: Adam Ewan
Alice Wharton: Gina Bramhill
William Payne: David Oakes
Maud Hare: Elizabeth Berrington
Lizzie Merrifield: Sarah Counsell
Lara: Chloe Pirrie
Writer: Robert Murphy
Producer: Eliza Mellor
Director: Sam Donovan


Victim of the episode:
Martha for being ‘different’. Jack for being a lovesick fool and because the creators believe the audience want karmic retribution making him pay for the previous episode. Alice the ghost girl who fell to her death or committed suicide while hysterical.


Synopsis:
Autumn 1894 – A woman in a red dress moves through a forest as if being chased. Nathan, in his office, uses a Ouija board to call on Clarity Winlove as he still wants to know if she blessed or cursed Charlotte’s womb. The red dress woman calls out asking if someone is there. Scene duality for the win yo. Nathan is getting no results himself though. The woman gets captured suddenly. Charlotte is back from her apple foraging calls on him. Once he is gone the Ouiji board begins to move. and ‘Daddy’ is written on the mirror. DUN DUN DURR.

The hay wagon has been tampered with leaving the sacks spilt on the ground. Reverend Denning came to check on Nathan and notes the Ouija board on his desk. They discuss the fashion for spiritualism which he sees as a malaise and covering the grief of bereavement. Nathan asks him his view as his reverend. Transgressing against man and nature. Jack Langtree is suspected of being the saboteur.

Miss Martha Enderby, the red dressed woman, appears and is the school marm we are told. If you have been watching can you honestly say you say the actress in any of the community gathering scenes in the past episodes? I can’t personally. She is clearly in shock so Nathan offers her a stiff drink and Denning asks her if she remembered anything. She remembers nothing of course as she is still in shock. She speculates maybe if she got back there… then remembers Jack Langtree attacked her… but it also wasn’t him at the same time. Almost as if he were possessed.

Later Nathan speculates she is blocking out something traumatic and wants to take her back into the forest in order to go after Jack. Charlotte protests but Martha agrees as ‘Jack Langtree is dangerous’.

Nathan asks if Jack forced himself on her which seems a logical enquiry considering her behaviour. They then look for where Jack attacked her.

Charlotte goes looking around the silent house and hears a baby’s cry. She then vomits in a bowl as Gwen turns up. Pregnant marm? Pregnant marm… Let Gwen hold your hair there marm while you chunder marm…

Nathan asks Martha to recall things and Martha speaks of a girl Alice she was educating. ( For those who remember the song: all together now! ‘Alice? Alice? Who the F*** is Alice?’) Jack was living and poaching there. Alice was going to elope with him so Martha was hoping to warn her off. (she has split personality and the grabbing at the start was of lovers i bet). she challenges him saying people think Nathan is raising the dead but she thinks he is a good man. They see smoke coming from nearby.

Gwen makes a drink to stop Charlotte vomiting. Chalotte wonders whats in it and Gwen says ‘what you don’t know wont hurt you’. HEDGE WITCH COMING TO THE RESCUE. Charlotte reflects on matters again and ‘hope is better than no hope’. She asks Gwen about he sound of the baby asking if maybe a worker brough a baby in. Gwen says she doesn’t know. ITS FORESHADOWING. NATHAN ISN’T THE ONLY ONE GETTING GHOST ENCOUNTERS… but later in the series she refuses to believe him which in hindsight makes it seem like a severe plot contrivance considering what happened here.

Nathan and Martha find a still smouldering camp site by the mouth of a cave. Nathan calls for Jack but there is no response so he goes to investigate. Martha sees it as Alice’s room and asks what he’s done to her? She runs for air looking around the upper levels of the trees when a pale, blonde, ghost girl appears nearby whom she identifies as Alice. Nathan goes to approach her but Martha shouts ‘No!’. (She’s a ghost then I guess.) Martha wants to leave this place. Nathan points her in the direction of his house and tells her to inform his wife. Martha says Alice isn’t the secret flower of the forest. No because that’s an unsubtle metaphor for the vagina… because you know… lesbianism symbolism. Nathan tells her he will bring her home safely.

Charlotte rides a horse to Mr Payne’s stately looking home. He is handsome. He has llamas. You know at some point he is going to be involved in some sort of temptation storyline with Charlotte as the, at the moment, happily married woman. They have banter but she is here to ask a favour. She needs his wagons. He agrees to it. (I bet he sabotaged them).

Nathan is still chasing Alice though the woods. He comes to a narrow path between tall rocks and finds Alice collapsed there… turning her over he sees she is a corpse. DUN DUN DURR!

Charlotte arrives home on her horse but seems weary of something. She enters and calls for Gwen. (Gwen’s been hiding a baby unless DUN DUN DURR its foreshadowing about the modern-day matters being hinted at heavily). Martha is sat in front of the fire. She considers it ‘all her fault’. Alice was going to elope with Jack and she lost her temper and went too far. When she went back to apologise Alice was gone. Believes she would have overcome her infatuation with Jack if she hadn’t intervened. Nathan checks the corpse and sees blood on the nearby moss. As Martha tells Charlotte more of Alice Nathan brings the corpse back through the forest.

Jack is wandering through the forest himself looking remorseful for how things have turned out.

Charlotte believes people wouldn’t accept a friendship between a school teacher and a simple lady. she views the area as backwards, even medieval, then apologises for saying such. MORE OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS BIGOTTRY. LETS HOPE THERE ARE NO EPISODES ON THE HORIZON WHERE WE ARE MEANT TO BE SYMPATHETIC. In reality, is such a small community, they would have. Oh except maybe this was the creator’s attempt at using ‘friendship’ as a euphemism for lesbianism – in which case I think you would find even modern urban societies would also at that time not look favourably towards their ‘friendship’. This is some bad writing.

Mr Payne arrives so Charlotte goes to greet him. Nathan arrives with the corpse of Alice. Like a cat that’s gone hunting. Alice was one of Mr Payne’s workers. Nathan asks for his help to apprehend Jack Langtree to which he agrees. Martha uncovers the body and sees the corpse of her friend. She and Nathan look at each other and he has Gwen take Martha back in the house. Charlotte questions him but Nathan asks she do as he asks. Be a good wife – love, honour and obey – just like you were so sycophantically willing to do in the first two episodes.

He inspects Alice’s corpse in a candle lit room while making written notes playing at being a proto-forensic investigator. Martha is staying with them and is shocked by the appearance of Alice’s ghost in the window.
Nathan later that evening declares to Martha and Charlotte he believes Alice was murdered that morning and discusses seeing her spirit. Martha denies seeing the ghost of Alice earlier suggesting he imagined it when he was there with her. He grabs her arm aggressively and asks what she is playing at then begins to shout at her claiming she is lying. Charlotte gets between them and apologizes for his behaviour. HIS FAITH IN SCIENCE IS BEING SHAKEN AND IT ONLY TOOK 4 SEPERATE GHOST ENCOUNTERS.

Nathan and Charlotte go into the corridor and she believes he has been in his study too long. Then the title of the series comes up as he is focused on the dead and she wants him to focus on the living. DRAMATIC DENOUEMENT – PLAY THE THEME TUNE!!! He then tells her about seeing the healer Miss Winlove’s ghost and needing to know if it was a blessing or a curse placed on Charlotte. She says she has given him everything she has but he has abandoned her.

He hears tinny voices and goes rushing to his study. He sees an electronic tablet speaking but it disappears and he doesn’t know what to make of it. I should note now they clearly indicate it is an iPad in a later episode by name in case you thought the BBC never do product placement. That is a hell of a strong back light on it considering how it lights things up.

The next morning he rushes outside to his horse as Charlotte comes outside to see him riding into the distance. Martha, inside, hears noises coming from an adjoining room to her’s. The door handle rattles. She opens the door and see the silhouette of Alice which then comes screaming towards her in a very goofy way. FORESHADOWING.

Cut to reverend Denning giving a sermon and children placing harvest festival offerings in a pile at the altar. TRAILER SHOT.

Jack is hiding under a tree from the mob hunting him down with rifles in hand. TRAILER SHOT. They find him and he runs away from them. Payne and a few of his workers arrive brandishing rifles. Payne spots Jack running in the distance and raises his weapon. However Nathan catches Payne just in time and calls him out on his conduct. Payne claims he wasn’t going to kill him and Nathan says he wants Jack alive. OH IS PAYNE BEING HEAVYHANDEDLY MARKED OUT AS AN ANTAGONIST? I THINK SO!

Gwen lock and loads a rifle saying if Jack Langtree comes their way he’ll have her to deal with. She also locked Martha’s door when Charlotte asks where Miss Enderby is.

Nathan chases Jack. Others appear with rifles. Nathan catches up to him. Jack thinks its Nathan causing the curse and persecuting him for all his ills. He considered Alice his angel who was going to save him. Nathan tells Jack he wants him to return for a fair hearing. Jack just wants him to bring her back. He’s seen him raise the dead and asked him to do it again. Nathan says he is ‘just a man, no more, no more’. So Jack throws himself off those same high stones that Alice did and dies.

Charlotte wants entry to Martha’s room but she just wants to be alone.

Payne asks if he wasnt guilty of murder why did he run? Nathan finds a book on Jack.

Charlotte moves a table from barricading the door. Chalotte tells her she believes Nathan saw something and asks why Martha lied and denied seeing it.

Nathan reads the book and Martha also recites the lines. ‘my love is like a red red rose… until the seas run dry. To my secret flower of the forest, love Martha’.

GET IT? SHE WAS A LESBIAN ALL ALONG! JACK LOVED ALICE. ALICE LOVED JACK. MARTHA LOVED ALICE BUT ALICE WASN’T A LESBIAN! MARTHA WAS AN OBSESSIVE LESBIAN STALKER, WHOSE LOVE WASN’T RECIPROCATED, ALL ALONG! WOOOOOOOOOOOO SPOOKY! SPINE TINGLING HORROR! HOPE YOU CAN SLEEP TONIGHT!

Jack loved Alice as did Martha. Martha always felt alone until she realised she loved Alice with all her heart. Then she sees the ghost of Alice saying if she loved her she wouldn’t have done this to her.

Nathan runs home as Martha monologues about how she was ignored because she was different. She then begins to choke Charlotte claiming to love her (Alice) challenging her why she laughed at her. She is delusional. Charlotte is choking. Nathan arrives and runs up the stairs. Gwen has already shot Martha dead and remains stood over the corpse pointing the rifle at it. Where was she earlier? We always see her literally at Charlotte’s right hand so it seems a plot contrivance she was absent without reason in order for Charlotte to get in trouble.

Field workers carry Jack’s body out for burial as the others ask where it will end as another of them is dead and he replies he doesn’t know.

Denning, in the church, approaches the altar and sees all the harvest offerings have gone mouldy and rotten. DUN DUN DURR (Actually this is a good bit of foreshadowing for the next episode in fairness).

Police take Martha away in a horse and carriage. How genteel for an attempted murder. Payne also departs after being thanked for playing his part. Nathan goes back inside to Charlotte. Martha murdered Alice with no possession or demon. It was because of passion and folly he claims. Human weakness. Charlotte says she can not remain here. She tried to kill her. He says he will protect her. He Loves her. But can he protect their child she asks. He is happy she is pregnant. It was everything they wanted and why they came here so nothing else matters but this. ‘the past is dead and the dead are dead. there is only us three’. and they embrace smiling. But we see him look pensively when she is unable to see his face.

STINGER CLIFFHANGER TIME. A modern car with the red coated woman pulls up to the house and she takes a baby asking ‘do you want to go inside?’ GET IT? THAT’S WHERE THE BABY  NOISE CHARLOTTE HEARD WAS COMING FROM.



Review:

A bit awkward of an episode. A modern audience is meant to take it as Martha was a lesbian but the problem is that women of that era had far more intimate friendships than nowadays. If you look at the story Carmilla by Sheridan Le Farnu nothing in it was lesbian in tone for the era but in contrast to today it certainly seems overly intimate but was normal at the time especially for middle or upper class young women.

Mr Payne just seems to be suddenly introduced here. I appreciate we don’t have to be shown every aspect of the Applebys’ arrival in the town in episode 1 but considering what we are shown you would think some reference to him would be made prior to the very sudden ‘we need help from someone (but someone who is equal to us not the workers who are portrayed as a sheep like rabble)’ moment in this episode.

Alice has little character development so her death seems little more than a weak narrative device. An object acted upon. What made her so appealing to Martha and Jack we never really get explained. She was inquisitive and wanted to learn. That is the motivation for protecting a youth not eloping with a lover.

So did Jack vandalise the wagons? I’m not sure if that little mystery is resolved or not.

When did Jack, or others, see Nathan raise the dead? It is mentioned a few times during the series and the only people you could argue he did that to was Peter and there were very few people present.

Really the time frame of this series seems to be about one episode per 2 months of them living there due to the passage from harvest to raining winter time imagery by the end of the series.

The image of Gwen as loyal servant is fine. People ‘knew their place’ as part of the class system. I take issue with the image of Gwen stood over Matha’s corpse though. It implies we are meant to see Gwen as badass or a strong woman in comparison to the other women this episode. What I see though is a clear glorification of violence. When did Gwen, a house based servant, learn how to use a rifle? We are never told and it neither came up before or after yet she seems to handle it like an expert. Was shooting Martha a reasonable response to seeing Charlotte being choked? Couldn’t she had instead struck her at the back of the head to knock her out (which still might seem severe but at least would leave Martha alive). No. No can’t be having any of that. Lesbians are degenerate. Might infect the other women folk. Death to her it is. So add hints of homophobia to the anti-intellectualism before. ‘Oh but that’s how people were back then’…. No. This series is presenting a very stereotyped view of the era and it seems minimal research was done concerning the issues of each episode. They are showing the worst of society each time and it makes the entire matter disagreeable in tone and execution.

The sudden turn of Charlotte from being loving , doting, wife to critical skeptic is too sharp. If they had done a better job of indicating her increasing disquiet I could accept it but it seems that the denouement before the ‘real’ story of the series begins is presented in a very heavyhanded manner making it seem forced rather than a gradual creeping development in the series. This goes even more so for how easily the workers leave the town. Many of them would have lived and worked in this community since birth so would know nothing of the next community over let alone have the drive or savings to abandon their homestead.

It’s a very heavy handedly written episode and it does a severe disservice to the story regarding Martha, Jack and Alice’s love triangle. There was potential there, especially in addressing the view of lesbianism in that era, but it is discarding in one of the most blunt ‘DRAMABOMB’ style sudden shifts in dramatic tone between its leads I have seen in recent history without it intended to be a shock. To me this is the turning point in the series where it tries to be far more clever than it is and its only downhill from here. What at first seemed like it would be an interesting series about science versus superstition – in regards to whether the ghosts are real or unclassified psychological issues – but decided melodrama is more important than consistency. If anything I feel this series is a veiled contempt for people who are not ‘normal’ under the guise of ‘oh but its set in the past and its that generations view of it’ when it often wouldn’t have been in reality. I will cover each episodes ‘people of hate’ in a round-up review in a few weeks hence why I explicitly note the ‘victims of the week’ with each entry. The series seems to want to deal with social issues but if so a lot of it’s topics are at least a decade too late.


The BBC seem to be uploading promotional images and such to the official site a few weeks behind airing the episodes on BBC1 which is annoying as I cannot post images of the episode I am reviewing in each post. Obviously they are preparing for the international market and are behind schedule. Fortunately I can return and add the appropriate image later but it is a shame for anyone who wants immediate reviews in the days following the episodes broadcast.

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The Living And The Dead Episode 3

BBC Episode 3 Description: “The farm and its future are under threat. Can Nathan and Charlotte save their crops and expose the dark secrets of a disturbed young man before he does any more damage?”



Credits
Nathan Appleby: Colin Morgan
Charlotte Appleby: Charlotte Spencer
Matthew Denning: Nicholas Woodeson
Gwen Pearce: Kerrie Hayes
Peter Hare: Robert Emms
Maud Hare: Elizabeth Berrington
Gideon Langtree: Malcolm Storry
Agnes Thatcher : Pooky Quesnel
Clarity Winlove:Katy Michael
Jack Langtree: Joel Gilman
Bathsheba Thatcher: Amber Fernee
Simon Merrifield: Ben Fox
Lizzie Merrifield: Sarah Counsell
John Roebuck: Steve Oram
Martha Enderby: Fiona O’Shaughnessy
Writer: Simon Tyrell
Producer: Eliza Mellor
Director: Alice Troughton


Victim(s) of the Episode: Peter Hare, due to persecution, and by extension his mother Maud. Clarity Winlove in the past due to similar persecution.



Synopsis

Nathan’s walking through the hay fields. The boys from last episode fade into the field, the modern-day red coat woman is flashed on-screen. Charlotte catches up to him and talks of the harvest. Banter. Backlit by the sunrise and kissing. Trailer shot accomplished.

Peter Hare dreams of being told he must make the sacrifice before waking. The voice tells him to ‘do it’ as he looms over his mother, Maud Hare, who awakes.

The workers are stood in a row awaiting Charlotte’s tasting of a single a grain and if she will declare if they’re to start the harvest today. She says tomorrow so the foreman, Gideon, tells them to all go. So she has gone from an urban house wife to knowing the intricacies of harvesting techniques which would take others a lifetime to develop? By this point she is a mary sue or as its more commonly called the protagonist of a romance novel. Or a pale shadow of Bathsheba Everdene. Your choice.

Charlie’s mother has packed up and is leaving after his death. Her three daughters sit silently on the cart. She says that he, the smart doctor, obviously knows their minds better than they do after he says it would be better for them if they stayed. She leaves in tears and the littlest girl has her doll wave and says ‘bye bye’. At least they are not ignoring that character’s have their own will but I feel there was more of a story that could have been told with them only for them to be gone now they’ve served their purpose.

The disturbed young man Peter goes for a swim. He sees a corpse and so goes and tells Nathan the ord of the manor authority figure. Nathan then himself goes for a swim to investigate. He doesn’t see the ghost/delusion. Peter, in front of Nathan, tells the voices in his head to shut up. Nathan notes maybe he needs help. Peter excuses himself and leaves as Nathan looks, bare-chested, into the distance. For the ladies. We get it – you’re marketing this towards a female audience you don’t need to be so heavy-handed about it.

Later all the fish in the lake/pond are dead so Nathan and Charlotte go back inside. She has her photo equipment and they talk of the mill’s history. Then he gets all soppy over a dandelion seed floating on his hand. Then as she sets her equipment up they make out.

The workers are down the pub complaining they’ll not be paid until next week and don’t like it. The reverend Denning sticks up for the Applebys toasting ‘the new and the old’. GET IT NEW AND OLD/LIVING AND DEAD/GABRIEL AND (SPOILER). Nathan visits the Peter’s mother Maude. Maude says the school master said he could go to university on a bursary but she thought it ‘better he learn a trade’. Nathan reckons Peter poisoned the mill pond. Nice leaping to conclusions with no evidence there Mr Protagonist. Then makes comments that he’s sure his, and his wife’s minds are fine… Peter says he’s glad it’s only dead fish and not dead people Nathan sees. FORESHADOWING. Charlotte develops her photos as Nathan bursts into her room. She sees a woman in her photograph but blames the bromide process having inadequacies.

They’re unlikable protagonists really as they seem so apathetic. They boss people around and stick their nose into things that are not their concern. But whatever – they own the land and by extension the people who work it in accord with feudalism traditions it seems. Are they landowners then to the level people pay rent and taxes to them?

Peter is told by the voices in his head to sacrifice his mother’s blood or else the harvest will fail. Very old school pagan view there. Wonder if they’ll indicate where he got these beliefs from as either way he had to have learnt it from somewhere as it is quite an old testament kind of idea.

Nathan is in his study at night and sees bugs on his copy book thus foreshadowing the next day’s events.

Next morning and Peter crosses paths with the Gideon, the foreman, who is suspicious of what he is doing up at that time of day.

Nathan has been up all night and written nothing. Black devil insects destroyed the harvest just as they did back in ’62. Foreman Gideon says Peter cursed the harvest. Again blaming him without proof. Wife declares they have an infestation and it’s not a curse nor are they devils. I’m quite sure the workers didn’t literally think they were devils. (Again it makes me less sympathetic to the character before the big conflict later in the series… ) So she says they’ll harvest the insects one by one then harvest the wheat. No magical answers here, just hard graft.

Peter says he hears voices. The woman under the water. What she told him about the sacrifice. Nathan says he doesn’t have to do that but doesn’t stop him either when he runs off and gets a sickle!?

Charlotte reads her farming books, instead of consult with at least Gideon about what to do, to see if there isn’t an answer and gets frustrated.

Nathan asks boy’s mother and she doesn’t remember it as she’s too young. She refutes it when Nathan said her son will become aggressive. He tells her to lock her bedroom door. He knows what will happen but lets her walk off!?

Charlotte creates a wonder solution ‘with science’! She is going to set some flammable incense off and needlessly tells the workers to ‘beware the crops catching fire’. You mean the workers who are not setting something on fire in the middle of the field and have been toiling away? She tells the workers to plant the others. I get the impression this stuff is actually similar to DDT and more hazardous than just accepting the crop failed.

Peter meets that actor Jack Langtree who reminds me of that actor who always plays west country rural workers. Clearly Peter has been like this before. The foreman Gideon, who it also passes is Jack’s uncle, says ‘the mistress has broken the spell so lets not have anymore of this okay’ to Peter still apparently believing he had a hand in the failed crops. Then Jack doused Peter in water ‘like a drowned rat’. So Peter is persecuted then by the others still.

The harvest is finished and Nathan asks Peter how he is then talks of insects ‘crawling into our minds’. Nice. Subtle. Not likely to spark him off whatsoever. Psychology 101 qualification don’t forget. Invites Peter to the Appleby house and hows him a photo of his mother as a child and Peter notices the lake woman in the photo. She was a healer who disappeared in the village. Charlotte asks if he is concerned about Peter but Nathan says ‘you can never be sure of what people are capable of’. Nice bit of prejudice there then, Peter is a worker with capabilities above his station being born intelligent and needs to be put back in his place and made to conform via persecution. No wonder he is so screwed up from living in this community. The writers might have had a point but by allowing Nathan to make such comments it makes him complicit and a far less sympathetic figure. (Again in the lead up to the part of the series where we are expected to be sympathetic to him).

Then at night Nathan sees the ghost woman as Charlotte lying next to him awakes and realises the harvest will be ruined by the sudden storm. He seems rattled by his experience just now. People toil in the field under the heavy rainfall. There’s some ominous Enya style music. ‘the devil wants to drown us all’. Peter has the voice tell him to do the sacrifice so they don’t blame him for the rain. His mother, Maude, had locked her door heeding Nathan’s advice from earlier. They discuss Clarity Winlove a.k.a. the drowned ghost woman. Maude denies knowing her. She adds terrified that though he might not love her she loves him. Peter calls her a liar and walks away.

Charlotte tells everyone to go home to rest and pray for better weather. Bossy boots Bathesheba wannabe. Jack and Gideon talk. Jack wants to end it ‘the old way’ but the Gideon is unsure. IS IT A DROWNING? IT’S A DROWNING ISN’T IT?

Nathan considers the events just a case of bad luck. They saved a quarter of the harvest. Nathan says maybe he brought the curse with him. Maybe its her Charlotte adds. YES LETS HAVE A PITY PARTY THAT’LL MAKE US GOOD PROTAGONISTS. She lists how she wasn’t born there, brought the machine and judged the reaping wrong. He says its lunatic talk, monomaniacal, the devil. The misfortunes nothing to do with her, there is no curse. She goes to change her wet cloths. He stares at the photo of Peter’s mother as a child and the healer woman.

He asks, the following day, if Maude knows Clarity Winlove. She denies it but then says Clarity went to America to see a distant cousin. Apparently that’s the ‘official’ story. Jack came looking for Peter and Nathan realises that Jack is going to attack Peter.

Jack find Peter in the old mill. He thinks that’s where Peter does his spells and such. Peter tries to run but he captures him easily.

Peter’s mother bangs on the Applebys’ door saying its her fault not her sons.

Jack ties Peter up to drown him as the ghost tells Peter that’s what was done to her. ‘You’ll reap what you sow’ and claims Peter is a witch as he floats in the pond so weighs him down before running off. Peter’s mother finds him face down. Nathan and his wife arrive and try to pump his lungs which works. His mother immediately goes to cut her wrist as payment for what she did years ago. She drowned Clarity due to the poor harvest just as Jack was going to drown Peter. She saw a potion Clarity had given her mother to put in her father’s meal to aid fertility. She knew what Clarity was but claimed she was a witch and had the others tie her in chains and drown her. Again she goes to cut herself but Peter runs up and tells her she must forgive herself.

Nathan looks pensively at the ghost of Clarity, stood in the doorway of the mill, as the others leave for home. He calls out to her to show herself saying she sat by his wife and touched her womb. ‘Was it a blessing or was it a curse?’ he demands before leaving and going to the pub to confront Jack.

Jack Langtree thought Peter was dead but Nathan assures him he isn’t otherwise he would hang Jack for murder. Jack says there’s something wrong here as he was trying to rid them, the community, of evil. Nathan tells him to go and never return to his land as he is banished. Jack defiantly claims he was going anyway and that the place is damned, calling on the others to deny it, ever since Nathan returned.

Charlotte urinated on some flowers to see if she is pregnant. Gwen says she think she is. Charlotte doesn’t want Nathan to know until she is sure.

The workers are gathered in the field as the last of the grain is gathered and Charlotte recites a rhyme before everyone celebrates in the night. Reverend Denning says it has been a strange summer. Foreman Gideon apologises to Peter for what his nephew Jack did. Nathan intrudes on the conversation and asks what Peter thinks. ‘water under the bridge’ and Nathan tells Gideon to get himself a drink.

Then Nathan and his wife dance as everyone around them sings. Nathan says he feels so alive. SO SO ALIVE. NOTHING WRONG CAN HAPPEN NOW.

Then of course we need a cliffhanger mysterious stinger to keep you watching the rest of the series at this halfway point. Cut to a wet child holding a toy wooden yacht watching them. This won’t be covered in the next episode so it’s a random tease of Gabriel who was stated to have drowned in the lake.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03z7h8b/player


Review

There is a theme of anti-intellectualism by the common folk in today’s episode. Poor, poor, landowners being put upon by their indentured serf workforce. It is a good episode in that capacity but the series long arc regarding the Applebys takes away time from developing what would have been a far more evocative narrative.

Wait Peter didn’t die? But he isn’t seen anywhere in the rest of the series and [spoilers which you would expect his reaction to]. What happened to him? I don’t think it is explained and I spent the rest of the series under the impression he was dead.

The ending part reminds me of ‘How Green Was My Valley’ as it seems the leads have no concept what they perceive is a very rose-tinted view of the community. The workers are not celebrating their own work, not they are celebrating their masters the Applebys.

There is nothing very supernatural here really as they present Peter as delusional throughout never as someone being haunted. It also becomes jarring as we are never shown Peter seeking isolation or other things which would imply secretive behaviour. He is a misfit but otherwise seems to keep in line until the events of this episode which amount to Gideon seeing him out early one day. PErhaps the creators thought what was presented was enough but I feel an extra scene with him talking to himself in front of other village folk, not just Nathan which might have been a one-off event, would make us understand the persecution more. Presenting irrational persecution as purely irrational, giving no reason for people to single Peter out until now, doesn’t make sense in and of itself.

As a counter point we are presented with Gwen’s hedge witch behaviour (which is how she defines herself later in the series).I have to wonder if the village folk know of it or if it is kept secret (aside from Nathan and Charlotte knowing of it). If they killed Clarity for her abilities wouldn’t they also want to kill Gwen? Admittedly maybe Clarity’s ability was miraculous while Gwen’s are herbal, thus traditional and ‘good’ in the minds of the village folk, but still there seems to be double standards. We never really learn much about Gwen during the series either – she just appears in one scene after the Appleby’s arrival and she is already Charlotte’s righthand woman. Do they protect her from persecution? It makes no really sense in the narrative as everything else seems fair game for challenging by the Applebys’ modern perspective in criticising their workforce.


 

Like, Follow or Comment – Give it a go.

Has anyone been watching this? It seems to not know which audience it wants to aim for and thus tries to be something to everyone but ends up nothing to anyone.

A delay on uploading as I was busy. The BBC apparently have stopped uploading preview clips to YouTube and their embed function on their own series page just gives the link not an embedded video. They also stopped doing episode specific galleries (correction they are just delayed by a fortnight or so which is fine as the images will be up prior to an international audience seeing the series but for Brits its a disservice). They must already have given up on promoting the series seriously for the British audience a third of the way into it’s run which is a shame as someone probably took promotion photos and everything and now won’t see the fruits of their labour… or maybe there will be a tie-in book with all of it in. Probably not but it used to be a given the BBC would do that with many series. I like the production design I just feel it’s scripts are not focused on depicting things effectively.

The Living And The Dead Episode 1

This week, and each week following, I will be covering each episode of the BBC series ‘The Living and the Dead’ which premiered on their iPlayer service recently. This first episode review is brief and acts as an overview of the major characters. The following entries will be more in-depth when covering the later episodes.

So let’s be introduced to the series and meet our cast of central characters!

Nathan Appleby and his wife return to his farming community hometown as he inherited his family’s estate, farm and the workforce attached to it. When he arrives ghosts begin to harm the townsfolk and its up to him to solve the mystery. Are the ghosts real or just figments of the superstitious people’s minds? will he be able to explain the spooky going ons with his professional skills in the budding field of psychology?

Part ghost detective series, part ‘the old ways were better’ cozy Sunday afternoon TV visuals’ similar to Larkrise to Candleford and part ‘the times they are achanging’ industrial revolution on an agricultural farm drama. It alternates in tone between Victorian ghost story and the aforementioned rural life drama tones very successfully though I wish it was one or the other to be honest. Overall it seems to be about the prevalence of the Spiritualist movement which became more and more popular towards the end of the Nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth.

From the minds that brought you Ashes to Ashes… so there is a twist which was obvious at the end of the first episode. He is investigating ghosts but he himself, or someone else, is seen as a ghost by modern-day people. So it’s a bit like the Nicole Kidman film The Others. Except for the most part the series doesn’t seem to want to make up its mind whether it embraces if the ghosts are real or if they are just figments of people’s imagination until the last episode where it turns into ‘I hate the mentally ill’ and there is explicitly at least one ghost whose existence is unquestionably real. Oh and the last-minute ‘twist’ which you see coming a mile away – in fact I guessed it even before watching tone minute of the series though, if they do another series, it sets up some interesting possibilities.

I will only cover a few of the major recurring characters here as there are so many names and such it is easy to get lost. Suffice to say many characters, though reoccurring in later episodes, only play significant roles in one episode and support roles in others if at all.

Nathan Appleby: Colin Morgan
Merlin grew a beard and got a deeper voice. A psychiatrist whose come back home to his inherited farm lands after his parents deaths. A man of science who contrasts the Reverend Denning who is a man of faith. Is his faith in science unshakeable or will something arise which makes him question reality? A generic protagonist who offers little beyond reacting to events until his ‘twist’ towards the end and then he crumbles into some overwrought acting by someone’s idea of how the mentally ill behave rather than a more natural portrayal.

Charlotte Appleby: Charlotte Spencer
Nathan’s Wife and amateur photographer, which was an exceptionally expensive pastime for the era, who takes over the running of the farm while he… um… that’s a good question. If he wasn’t playing skeptical occult detective what would he be doing? She tends to order the servants about a bit and is not good at making the babies apparently at the start. She is trying to update the farming practises but meets opposition because ‘they havent updated their farming practises since the Roman days’ as she says in episode 2. Is she truly a loving wife or just over compensating? A generic ‘I want to be both a modern woman and a mother’ character, as required by BBC mandate to avoid complaints, set in a time period where such behaviour would be very unusual. Her efforts in running the farm made her come across like a pale imitation of Bathsheba Everdene from Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel Far from the Madding Crowd. Perhaps it is hinted she takes inspiration from the novel and tries to become the character but realises the difference between fiction and reality (which of course gets challenged by the existence of ghosts and other matters in the town). Then again maybe I am giving them too much credit considering some of the characterisation in the series.

They are one of those couples so into each other you figure there is a massive bust up on the horizon (oh how true this is) or they are simple-minded. Both are presented as very comfortable in enforcing class rules where their orders are followed without question. They also embody the generations disparaging view that as middle class people they are superior in all ways due to their formal education unlike their workers who rely on passed down skills, knowledge and folk practices. Their workers are little more than biblically named drone to do as they bid. This elitism extends as far as in episode 3 where Charlotte, whose only knowledge of farming is from her books and not personal experience, gets to dictate when they do the harvesting unchallenged. Of course the workers grumble about it down the pub but the fact they accept their lot in life is true to the mentality of the time until issues mount up over the run of the 6 episode series and many flee.

Matthew Denning: Nicholas Woodeson
The reverend of the local parish who lives with his wife and daughter. The foil to Nathan’s quasi-man of science during the series. In the first episode we see Nathan help his daughter and throughout the series he act as Nathan’s counterpoint. The Vicar Denning and his possessed daughter. He becomes a sort of Captain Haddock/Dr Watson like foil to Nathan. He gets his big scene in episode 5. Is his faith unshakeable? In a community where many old folk beliefs are still practised does he hold that much power?

Harriet Denning: Tallulah Haddon
The reverend Denning’s daughter who is possessed in the first episode of the series and serves the role of an unintentional clairvoyant. An ingenue who has a face that reminds me of the Engineers from the film Prometheus. When possessed she does a funny gravelly voice. If you know of the Conjuring 2 and the real life Enfield Poltergeist it was based on then you know the voice. It is not at all scary.

Gwen Pearce: Kerrie Hayes
Maid/house keeper/lady in waiting to Charlotte who ‘speaks with a regional accent so is working class’ stereotype. Yes marm, no marm, three bags full marm. I would die for you if you asked marn. Cops off with an intinerant worker at the end of episode 1 and again a bit later in the series. Otherwise she just says ‘Yes Mam’ to all Charlotte’s wishes and appeases her constantly while acting as all but her personal valet. The only time this image is broken is episode 4 when she is handing a rifle in a comfortable manner suggesting she has had a life long access to it but it’s never explained. IT comes across like an action movie star suddenly forced into a Victorian setting which is quite jarring. She is also a hedge witch. You see hints of it early on but it doesn’t come into play until the last episode or so. Is she a faithful servant or maybe the real power holder in the community as she is in the role of the traditional ‘wise woman’ practising folk remedies the community still believes in. Kerrie Hayes reminds me of Natalie Dormer.

Gideon Langtree: Malcolm Storry
The foreman of the workers. Old fashioned and faithful. He tends to be the go to character to show the old practises of harvest and such often acting as the voice of the workforce to his masters and as the voice of his masters to the workforce. A west country haywain stereotype who is more a narrative device, if that, than a satisfying character in and of himself. He reminds me of James Cromwell’s role as Farmer Hoggett in the film Babe.

Lara: Chloe Pirrie
Mystery character I can’t comment on without spoiling the series for you. Suffice to say once you see her its obvious what the twist of the series is upon sight. I am not sure what the creators were thinking showing her in the first episode as she probably should have only appeared in the last episode or so. But this is by the people who did Life On Mars so you know there will be some twist and I am guessing they were forced by producers or something to have a hook in the first episode to bring people back. She reminds me of the actor Kevin Sussman who plays Stuart Bloom, the comic book shop owner, from the comedy series The Big Bang Theory.

The field workers and village folk – West country ‘ooh arr ain’t got much o that book learning’ stereotypes. Don’t like progress and the changes from ‘the old ways’ both in cultural and work practises. A superstitious lot – but when there are ghosts and such it’s not a negative thing although the show makers obviously focus on the middle class leads. They ain’t much for change. Their the sort of ‘happy in servitude’ character’s Leo Tolstoy would have loved to write about. A few are named and play roles in various episodes but most are interchangeable.


Victim of the episode:
1) Harriet Dennings: possessed by the ghost of a man who wasn’t baptised. She swears a lot and acts out. Relevance to the overarching series plot: Drew a stick figure woman in red on the wall just like Nathan’s dead son did.


BBC’s Episode 1 Description: “Supernatural drama series. Pioneering psychologist Nathan is faced with a disturbing and eerie case – a young girl manifesting terrible voices.”


Synopsis:

I began writing notes and it devolved into a West Country’s accent. I would apologise but it makes the review more authentic. Just like that Chinese microwave meal you bought down the supermarket last week.

The opening reminds me of the work of Kyle Cooper who did the opening to Se7en and many other films. We see flashes of images and items that may, or may not, be relevant to the series overarching storyline. Its meant to set the tone and I feel is very successful in achieving this.

It’s the 1890s and we are in the rural West country of England. Nathan Appleby has a wife who is an amateur photographer. A very expensive hobby which means we definitely will at some point get some spirit photography during the series. They inherit a farmhouse and its land from his dead parents.

Charlotte, his wife, brings in one of them there new fangled steam engine things what does plowing without horses. needless to say staff dunst like it and its gets broken. Wuz it the staff, wuz it dem ghosts or wuz it just a fickle piece of rubbish? (… It’s never said but presumably its just a poor piece of equipment and there is no one around to fix it. Later in the series it apparently got stuck in some marshland and sank.)

but ahm getting head of ‘self. He is what you call a psychologist and this be heady way before their time stuff as its science only just now curring to people exists. There’s girl Harriet. Reverend’s daughter, and she got possessed by ghost o man who ain’t been baptised by his own priest father he weren’t. Things dus happen and servant girl Gwen has it up gainst tree with yearly field worker what says ‘see ya next year; and she replies ‘aye n even if ahm married’. Saucy cow that she is.

Well Nathan he done go an hypnotises girl Harriet and goes down tut river and has her own father baptise the ghost out o her. and that’s end of first episode.

E bye gum lad these reviews will be far longer and ain’t gonna be in this here accent from now on…


Review:

As Tolstoy said “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The Applebys are far too happy. It comes across as so overwrought you assume they are both lying but the end of the series suggests that no they really do feel this way. There is of course an issue which arises but it never felt like it was unrepairable until the denouement of the last episode – and please don’t think I couldn’t recognise a gradual escalation if it were presented but this is all too forced and unnaturally paced. The conflict seems very forced as Nathan continually makes clear how he is a man of science, in contrast to Denning who is present for these scenes specifically to be his foil as the local reverend, but we see Nathan completely shift in manner once the ghost of his son is present later on.

I think, having seen the whole series, Denning and his daughter Harriet could be far more interesting protagonists than the Applebys if they were developed more. Yes there is conflict during the series for the Appleby couple to overcome but many of the side characters who are part of the community seem more compelling. Charlie’s families (episode 2 and the first scene of episode 3) and the Hare family (Episode 3 and recurring) are far more interesting than the Applebys but are quickly sidelined for more panning shots for dark houses and tense looking people. Perhaps the Applebys are written to be bland protagonists so we project ourselves onto them but I feel this fails and so they go through the motions when there are characters with far more potential. Instead these characters get ‘ghost of the week’ episode issues which the Applebys resolve with varying levels of success and are soon returned to the background. This series would have been far stronger as an ensemble piece with no definitive central protagonists it feels.

The first episode comes across as if it were the standalone pilot and they should have removed the twist of the modern day person at the end for the released version. It’s a good stand alone episode and certainly, excluding the time dedicated to introducing the Applebys as our main characters, this is a nice ghost story in the classic mould.


More tomorrow hopefully but if not then be assured it will be uploaded the following day.

Comment, Like, Follow – all are welcome

Fuan no Tane (2013) Japanese Horror Film Review

Another ‘I watched a Japanese film’ entry.

This time it’s Fuan no Tane, a.k.a Pet Peeves, based on the anthology horror manga of the same name. In the manga the vignettes were apparently ‘based on true stories’ which in modern horror parlance means ‘I made it up but it’s set in a real world place’ – sort of like how the ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ is based on real events – in so far as Texas is a real world place and cannibals exist.

I read the first volume of the manga and most, if not all, the threads of this film come from that. If you haven’t read it then it consists of urban myth stories lasting no more than three to seven pages in length and usually are more humourous than scary (which may be unintentional due to the overly simplistic design used for the ‘scary’ ghosts). For those expecting some ‘Tit-ilation’, as per the tradition of modern horror films having some gratuitous nudity to the point its a cliché, I have to disappoint you and tell you there is none (its more of a Western thing that rarely appears in East Asian cinema). So, to be clear to those expecting it, the bizarre story featured in the manga where a boy finds a demolished house with a pair of breasts growing out the wall, which he gropes being a little pervert, is not featured in this film. However some of the more memorable stories from the anthology are.

If you want explanations of where the ghosts come from, as is common in Western horror films, forget it. The Japanese prefer to exist in the present not reflect on the past in such matters usually. Of course there are exceptions to this but that is usually reserved for cases of cute ghost girls who were part of a tragic love triangle and died unexpectedly e.g. Shikoku (starring Kill Bill’s/ Battle Royale’s Chiaki Kuriyama in an early role) or the Fatal Frame film (which tags on the camera obscura at the end for no real reason having had nothing to do with it the previous 70 minutes). There is a half arsed ‘conspiracy’ hinted at towards the end but really it is unnecessary and convoluted. In fact there is quite a bit to mock in this film. Where it should probably have gone for a slightly irreverent tone it instead plays out earnestly and it’s hilarious but not in a good way.

So onto the film…

The film changes throughout the first part between a family who have moved into a new, but haunted, house and a student who begins dating his female coworker who apparently has a few ‘secrets’ *cough*occult magnets *cough*.

The first scene we are introduced to has 1970s level of SFX human eyeballs sliding on down the highway being crushed by ongoing traffic. Where are they going? What are they doing? Nothing really. This is one of the short stories depicted in its entirity…and apparently these same eyeballs also haunt a house, causing an old man to slip up, when not committing suicide on the highway. Or because the crew liked how cheap and reuseable this practical effect was unlike the CGI they used elsewhere.

A motorcyclist delivery man, who we later learn may or may not be named Seiji, discovers a guy stuck in a hedgerow and we only see half of him vertically as he begs for help. So of course being a good Samaritan Seiji helps pull him out. There is no other half and the half-ghost collapses on top of Seiji and makes him scream in the empty street. Except for a lone girl stood in the background wearing all white. (Clearly an Ayanami Rei reference). He’s a ghost. There are spooky people watching him. There are eyeballs that might have caused an accident. WOoooooooOOOOOOoooooohhhhh are you scared yet?

Guys, slightly drunk or just you classic movie jerks who rarely exist in real life, see an attractive woman walking ahead of them. They cat call to her and one runs up to speak to her face to face. She has an inhuman face – in this case a bale of straw. The Japanese love this kind of ‘looked human but, nope, it was a yurei/yokai. The anal eye one, shirime, always gets people’s attention although its more common to see the ‘blank’ face type, Noppera-bō, usually said to be Tanukis playing pranks.

A little boy wants to pee but between him and the downstairs toilet there’s a shadowy figure lurking in the low lit dark at the bottom of the stairs and it can hang from the ceiling too. In fairness this one is definitely based on children’s reality. There were a few others in this vein they could have easily done like a teenage boy leaving school and refusing to look at a wall because he knows it’s a giant monster face. But instead we get what seems like two stories, and a few loose ends, that suddenly become one in a omnishambles ending. So from here on out you even get time stamps in case you ever find a way to watch this film and want to skip to the good bits.

19.30 A clumsy waiter, soon to be a main character, encounters some ‘badass’ Japanese biker type guys who enter his restaurant and snarl at him. The Japanese are comical when trying to seem tough using foreign influences. Their Yanki bikers, teenager bike gangs based on an exaggerated image of 1950s American biker culture (similar to how Russian Stilyagi are an exagerated version of 1950s rock and roll youths) are a prime example of how they don’t quite ‘get’ what it is they’re aping so amalgamate it with some of their own culture to create a strangely synergistically unique version that is all their own. These bikers serve no other purpose in the film which is a shame as they were far more charismatic than the main cast – and all they did was grunt.

There is a person sat in a dimly lit corner in a mac coat, wide-brimmed hat and a surgery mask. Waiter boy’s coworker, who is also soon going to be a main character soon, stops him serving the guy. She says don’t ever serve that person. (they caught the reflection of the film’s cameraman in this shot too).

The guy of course serves him! He has to! In order to tempt fate and actually give us something daunting to threat over. Well maybe not threat about as this guys a chump asking for death it seems. Or just to spite his coworker. She probably looks at any customer who isn’t bishonen, a J-Pop Idol or whatever passes for an attractive male in Japan and instantly declares ‘I’m not serving that person they’re a ghost!’ and thus is kind of crap at her job probably.

The mystery guy is a ghost with something under the mask… we don’t see what but at this budget level it is probably better to leave it to or imagination as the precedent of ‘human but with a non-human object face’ is giving me flash backs to Reeves and Mortimer in the 1990s.

The ghost follows him home. Well I mean come on he’s the only person whose going to serve him any food or drink. A bit like a stray cat or dog when you think about it.

It watches his apartment from across the street at night waiting beneath a telephone pole. In my head this scene could really take on a different tone with the right music.

Ultravox or something. Or this:

As FBI agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks might say “that’s a damn fine cup of water”. Enough to defy passing on for apparently. Quite a lonely ghost really and in the end it didn’t do much except stand outside.

The next section had faulty subtitles so if you read the Misa Kuroi reviews you know I just have to guess what the hell is happening… I did read the manga chapter this is based on but only half remember it.

The evil containing tea-pot: The guy gets invited to his former coworker-now-girlfreind’s appartment. They chat over tea. She asks if there is anything wrong. It’s as if someone or something, is hurting him. He denies it because he wants to seem all alpha male for her and assure progress from tea buddies to D in da PDA-buddies but she sees past his bluff, calls him a liar and becomes enraged. She’s a modern woman and can deal with a beta male for a partner. They kiss and sleep together. Either way ‘mission accomplished’ in his mind I guess…

Time apparently passes quite significantly during a single scene transition as he now suddenly notes, after 5 minutes of screen time together as a couple, that stress has built up between them daily. Sexual tension? Nope can’t be that – that notch is already carved in the bed post for him. Must be something else.

One night he explores her apartment – because that sort of invasion of privacy is always good in a relationship isn’t it? In a small cupboard he finds a grime covered old teapot. Someone who hides dirty kitchen ware instead of wash it – yup that’s early 20 something kind of behaviour – nothing suspicious here then. She appears behind him. Was she there the entire time? It reminds me of that woman who hid in a guy’s flat for years without him noticing.

Yeah she is definitely that kind of crazy – even though it’s her apartment. The teapot was an inherited item and the idea is you rid yourself of negativity by using it. She demonstrates by taking the lid off and shouting into it. She acts like this is normal and offers it to him so he can try. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all…

He notes how the grime has affected not only the teapot but also the surrounding surface. Very observant of him. Maybe he could just man up, get a wet cloth and wipe it down for goodness sakes rather than complain about it since it’s the twenty first century.

As he goes to touch it his arm becomes badly affected by low quality CGI veins and he pulls agonising faces. Me too – the acting is really corny. IMPOSSIBRU style facial contortion levels of acting. Like a constipated orange. She jokes around about it and scares him. And yet he can’t say no to her because… because… it must be true what they say about the skills of crazy people in the bedroom. Think with you head and run for the hills main guy! Or don’t as you don’t seem like the sort of guy who can chat up women easily. If this was an American film he would have a ‘comic relief’, or ‘so-cool-you-seriously-question-why-they-are-friends’ friend telling him she was out of his league. Well it’s a small town and he has no friends so he’s doomed. The urge to dry hump overpowers the brain in such cases.

33.38 The stalker ghost waits for him across the street from his apartment. night-time and daytime it doesn’t matter. He can’t leave his apartment. Again this scene needs its own soundtrack.

It is at this point I begin to confuse ‘met the half ghost’ delivery motorcycle guy from the start and the ‘I was a waiter but now I’m a shut-in hikikomori’ guys. I mean it’s not as if the characters are very distinct. So… yeah a case of ‘the main guy is also not the main guy because the main guy is someone else… but maybe he isn’t’. Even worse, both ride motorcycles so… yeah. Distinct characters. They have very similar haircuts too and have that overall indistinct ‘attractive guy’ look so… One dies at the and the other doesn’t.

‘Spoilers’ you cry. ‘Horror clichés’ I reply. No one is getting out of this experience untainted.

35.25 The theme tune of the movie plays. Was all of it so far just a set up? Hell even the James Bond ones don’t go over 15 minutes at most for their cold openers! Ghosts are drawn to the electrical charge of the overhead power lines. I know because I read the manga to know the context. To you, watching it without context, it’s cloth rags drawn to the static of the power lines as if they’re acting like a Van Der Graf generator. See you’ve learned some science in todays account so it’s not been completely pointless. Either way its some bad CGI again. For all their technological advances the Japanese don’t seem bothered by sub par CGI use. Maybe they use the logic ‘it’s meant to look unreal… bad CGI looks unreal… so case closed’.

We are back with the family from the start of the film. Power suddenly goes out across the town for no reason. The boy finds a flashlight for his family. He flashes it on and off and they joke about having a disco. This is meant to endear them to use despite us all knowing, from experience, what’s coming up next… Him being told to knock it off, disciplined and told treat the situation seriously? Nope. Of course not. He really deserved a slap to be honest. Kid or not this was an annoying sequence. I bet they didn’t have any candles or matches in the house either yet risked him breaking the torch for a bit of ‘look this is a loving family’ forced character dynamics.

He switches it on permanently and sees a disfigured ghost behind his parents and so of course drops the torch from shock. Because we all know if you can’t see it then it definitely can’t see you. White eyes. See, no one says it but these dead things all have severe cataracts in their eyes. Blind as bats one and all.

When the father puts it back on their mother has disappeared. A scream echoes through the house. They run towards her location only to find a discarded arm stump and hand. Something falls over. Coughing. A figure grabs the father and stabs him to death as his children watch terrified. Was it the mother? The torch is picked back up by the boy and he looks to his father, then the arm stump and finally the fresh corpse of his dead mother.

The boy is grabbed and his head held. He tells his sister to run. WOAH KID! It’s almost like you are going to be set up as a heroic protagonist we will be seeing more of later in the film as if this was someone’s back story but we just haven’t been told it is yet! She runs out of the house as his head seems to be crushed.

Oh maybe not then…

I will give it to the Japanese. They don’t generally shy away from killing children in horror films if it seems the logical conclusion to a scene.

Back with the couple we see the teapot is being thrown in the river. If it was that easy why didn’t she do it before? Well because she liked the outlet of contaminating the teapot with her negative emotions. Lucky for her it wasn’t over a hundred years old and became a tsukumogami… except it was a family heirloom so probably it could have been. I personally can’t wait for Fuan no Tane 2: Revenge of the Angry Teapot.

It was Yoko, the girlfriend’s, childhood being recounted everytime we saw this family you’ll be surprised to hear. That was actually a nice surprise as usually female characters can seem like window dressing in Japanese films. She is still depicted as a helpless victim so that’s not so good but baby steps.

Also note I finally learn their names at this point. Not intentionally but the subtitles finally got around to actually mentioning them. I think the subtitler also began to get confused between restaurant boy and delivery boy.

She tells her boyfriend they found the father’s corpse but not those of her mother or brother. Ever since then she has the ability to see ghosts etc. That’s how ESP and other occult powers work. Sort of like Spider-man except the spider just walked across his hand rather than intentionally bit him. A guy who will soon die she says i.e. Seiji the protagonist a.k.a the boyfriend she is speaking to or is it the shut-in? SHOCK! We get a flashback to the half corpse and she was the girl who was down the road watching him. I thought they had skimped on the budget for background extras after the restaurant scene but apparently this was intentional. Very Rei Ayanami of her then… He huddles up at home under a blanket. Him. The other guy. The one with a ghost stalker. You know who I mean.

46.00 The stalker ghost is gone from the street. Seiji notes a hand sticking up out of some nearby garbage on the street and hides away again. He considers it is probably a fake. He laughs. Ha ha ha yes all this stuff about a stalker ghost who has made you sit under your blanket for the past… however long the couple have been going out which must be over a month by now at least… Yeah it’s all just make-believe that someone has been stood outside your apartment waiting for you. He decides to go look at the rubbish bags and finds out it’s a mannequin’s hand. Ha ha ha. But UH OH a voice calls out that someone is touching her hand! He turns and sees a woman with a hideous face missing her hand and she starts hitting him with a hand axe or hammer… a piece of coal on a stick? He is hit over and over. Very slowly. Very very slowly. Incredibly slowly. Without any ‘striking’ sound effect as he cries. Obviously there was no budget for a foley artist. He goes home. That… that was rather non-commital for a sudden assault. It reminded me of the following:

Seriously…

50.00 – the ‘funny face’ symbol, which looks like a melted plug socket, recurs on someones door as a badge. I remember this face from the manga and it was one of the stupidest stories that went nowhere yet seemed a favourite of the author. The owner flicks it away but it reappears. He ignores it. Heroes always ignore danger. I think this is motorcycle-deliver-man-who-saw-half-ghost’ guy. He has a motorcycle so let’s just assume it is. He has a leather jacket. He’s a protagonist. Let’s not discuss it any further.

Night time – his next door neighbour, an attractive lady, returns and washes. The water in the bath next to her bubbles and a ghost begins to rise. Freddy Kruger is that you? Oh, wait, no they’re just doing something similar. Next day the guy goes to investigate the noise outside and finds a police investigation and onlookers there. Did he seriously not hear anyone outside? I mean seriously? I know the Japanese have this cultural thing about being considerate of others but I think a load of the local goose-neckers and old women housewife gossips wouldn’t be that considerate. Yoko appears and expositions about… stuff. Not important stuff. Just ‘there be ghosts’ vagueness. Honestly you won’t figure anything out from what she says. The subtext is ‘I’m a mysterious girl with connections to the supernatural’… which we already know Miss ‘Shouts-In-Teapots’.

The guy blames the badge symbol. Good call although would you really lead to that conclusion if you were in his position? Someones been murdered? Can you imagine Columbo, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Porfiry Petrovich, Erast Petrovich Fandorin, Kogoro Akechi, Kindaichi Kosuke, Tintin, [insert the names of any other detectives you know] to reach such a conclusion?

53.40 Seiji survived the light pummeling though he now has a bloody bandage on his head. So either he under-reacted, over-reacted or had a delayed response and should have some brain swelling at this point and already be dead. The film ignores this more interesting possibilities and its a case of ‘he’s got a boo-boo on his bonce’ here. Yoko had been taking care of him. So she’s having it off with both guys. Well she is ‘supernaturally’ aligned and so its a given she is a bit of a ‘lady of the night’ morally. Deny it. Tell me there is a group of mythologies where women are not depicted as tempresses. You can’t, I bet.

Maybe this guy isn’t Seiji. I don’t care as mentioned earlier. He panics and she tries to calm him. She admits the town is… but doesn’t finish what she is saying. She tries to comfort him then flies into a rage telling him maybe he should just leave. she tells him the town is saying die die die die die! Bunny boiling alert! She then kicks him, an injured man, and tells him to go die and leaves. The Japanese view of women… The guy decides he needs to leave and can’t do as Yoko asked. Defying the order to die… um, good for you? Stand up for yourself Mr MGTOW! Oh well we got this far without the awkwardness of japanese narrative logic creating out of character moments just to justify plot developments so let’s just ignore this scene. She didn’t turn into a massive malformed demon so clearly it wasn’t an RPG boss fight he needed to complete in order to progress the story.

56.00 – Now the stalker ghost and hammer ghost girl both wait in the street together and Yoko walks past his apartment glancing up at it. What song fits this scene? It’s hard to say…

I mean… I assume they grew up in the town.

56.40 – Guy returns to his apartment and the face symbol is there again. He peels it off and puts it on next door’s or it magically attached when he flicks it. Very heroic to let yet another person fall victim to it when he knows the consequences. Next morning there is another crime scene and Yoko. The guy must be a deep sleeper and his alarm clock has a radio that plays at full blast as he does his morning routine. That’s the only explanation. A suicide by hanging this time. She tells him to ‘leave that evil thing alone. wherever the symbol is stuck it’ll certainly … bring their end’. Thanks Miss Exposition but you’re a few scenes too late.

56.56 – Another little boy protagonist who is talking to his family writing and drawing about a scary faced ghost he can see called Ochanan. It’s a stupid face. in the manga it feels more like a joke story but here they try to make out there’s some weird conspiracy about it. Seriously it doesn’t get explained and as far as I know there is no sequel so it seems very stupid to base the main storyline around this gag story in what is, I assume, meant to be a seriously toned film. It’s very weird and it would freak you out but not in a way that you wouldn’t instantly just kick it in the face for invading your privacy. An adult shows another adult a photo of the boy with the ghost in a window behind him.

Are you scared yet? No? Shock! Have some respect! I mean it’s not as if at this point I was myself seriously considering having a nap since nothing interesting has been happening during the sedate pacing of the film…

Guy looks at his next door’s front door and gets on his motorbike. Yes you just allowed someone to die for no good reason because you are too cool to risk seeming paranoid by saying ‘hey, someone died here so… you know… maybe consider moving?’ Cool guys let people die. Especially when they could be riding about on a motorcycle instead.

1.01.00 – The coworker guy is still stuck in his flat mumbling to himself. Someone approaches the building. Footsteps can be heard. Tension builds and it’s Yoko. Isn’t that more scary? I mean between a girl who kicks him and tells him to go die versus a ghost who stands under s street light at night I would go with the less immediate threat personally. She tells him to hurry and hide. He looks out the window. The ghosts are not there. No they have common sense unlike you.

1.04.20 – Seiji a.k.a. biker-boy is on his motorcycle recalling Yoko’s words. He decides to live… Speeds up… The sun glares blinding him… He hurtles into the same hedgerow he saw the ghost at. He is the new ‘Mr vertical sliceghost’… or maybe it was his own ghost he saw at the beginning but didn’t recognise. Trust me it make sense I offer this suggestion once you learn the ‘it was her family all along’ twist isn’t the only time related story twist of this film.

1.05.40 – Yoko’s coworker runs out his door and she slowly follows. She isn’t going to escape with him. She says she can’t leave the town. SHE’S A GHOST!?

Probably… or an ‘occult girl’ stereotype which is popular in Japan. I mean I’ve seen enough supernatural/occult related Japanese media to say that this sort of character is a stock figure for such tales and rarely gets given much of a background beyond the sort of ‘she’s a bad girl’ kind you get for female roles in 1950’s films. It’s like that bit in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows where the daughter suddenly turns out to be a werewolf and she tells her mother to ‘just deal with it’. Seriously, that scene was asinine… It’s the same deal with these ‘oh so cool’ occult girls in Japanese productions. You are not told much of their abilities so they just make them up as needed like a Silver age Superman or Batman with his utility belt. It doesn’t make for drama and your budget doesn’t allow for spectacle to distract us from this like some of the recent Marvel films do. If you don’t give people a reason to care for a character then they won’t. Especially one who seems to be dealing with the situation fine and is fully in control.

Yoko is just Misa Kuroi under an alias! If you rounded up all these generic Japanese occult girls from various series they would have an ‘I’m Spartacus’ scene – except in this case they really would be interchangeable. Long dark hair and pale skin are always essential. Monosyllabic communication is also often a common trait. Any dismissal of others is an added bonus for depicting such characters. After all they do know what is going on and the normal people freaking out, because a creature who defies all physics and just ate a few people after passing through a wall unhindered, is just being pathetic obviously.

Its been hinted throughout the film (poorly) she is something to do with the supernatural conspiracy of the town. She kissed the guy goodbye. It lasts a bit too long really. It’s a goodbye kiss… FOREVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRR

Seiji crashes and the badge flies through the air landing by some kids playing football in the street. They, being stupid kids who touch shiny things, pick it up and put it on the coworker’s motorcycle as Yoko watchs them do so while maintaining the kiss with the guy. Seiji didn’t crash as we suspected he would. He barely missed doing so and leaves safely riding past Yoko and the coworker who are still in the process of kissing…

Clearly it’s never mentioned but they have to have gills to have been kissing this long. They’re descended from the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Deep Ones, Mermaids (Ningyo for those wanting it to all be Japanese mythology… so she could be a Yaobikuni like figure in such a case and if so the whole time loop thing reminds me of the PS2 game Forbidden Siren) or any other such figure – take your pick of ‘people who don’t need to breathe the normal way’e.g. Quiet from Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.

1.08.30 They say farewell finally and he goes to ride off with the badge stuck to his motorbike. Can you see what’s coming? You don’t get a reward for guessing. She watches him head off. On the motorway he is muttering about how he can escape destiny/her/being the other guy/this film. He rides and there are some good static overhead shots in fairness to the cinematographer. Shame they arrived so late to the production as it might have at least been a visually interesting film otherwise. He thinks he made it. Of course he does. If he thought ‘I haven’t made it’ we wouldn’t be able to criticise him. Then he sees Ochanan boy hanging onto him and he crashes into the hedgerow. Wow what bad CGI on the boy’s face. It’s actually more hideous than if they had used any of the budget on better effects. The coworker is now like the vertically cut ghost from the earlier part of the film. Maybe he was the ghost from the earlier part. Who knows. All the guys in this film are interchangeable.

… wait did they have two versions explaining the ‘vertical ghost’ thing. I am not sure. Did I rewind the film a bit and watch the same sequence? I… what… it’s like there’s some sort of time warp… *cough*hint*cough*

1.11.15 A press conference of a well dressed man and woman shaking hands in front of a banner with the Ochanan face symbol on it. Either they are in government or business together it’s unclear. There is no explanation so this scene is completely random except to suggest some sort of ‘curse handed down by the region’s ruling samurai family. A side story which only now gets introduced (though I added suggestions to find a way they possibly tried hinting at it very poorly earlier in the film).

Seiji pulls up to the side of the road watching the sunset. He wonders about Yoko…. who then turns up. he realises he lived. She changed his fate then? They silently stand by each other watching the sunset over the steelworks of the town. This is romantic scene gold. He says there were no more stange incidents and he graduated university with Yoko. Umm… what? Seriously? What has this to do with anything?

A photo of the Ochanan writing boy, who I assumed to be Seiji in the past, is shown static on-screen. But no, in fact, Seiji married Yoko and this boy is their son. The boy was/is haunted by Ochanan.

So all this time the boy writing was ‘in the future’ of the main narrative. The family of Yoko, Seiji and the boy sit having dinner with Seiji’s father who is admiring the boy’s drawing of Ochanan. He tells Seiji when he was younger Seiji also saw the ghost. The grandfather says how there are two Ochanans. one whose eyes slant upwards is the one to be beware of. (In the manga they also mention the good one but that is skipped here which makes mention that this is ‘the bad one’ awkward as there is only the one version of it ever addressed).

The boy sees Ochanan in the slightly ajar futon cupboard behind his mother as fuzzy CGI. Terrifying… The lights go out. The boy finds the torch and gives it to Seiji. It goes on and off. Everyone has disappeared. Daiki is the boy’s name. Did we need to learn that at this late stage? No, not really. There is a crash and coworker is there in his half cut form and Seiji sees his dead father who, along with the coworker, begins crawling towards him. SHAKEY CAMERA TIME! Seiji gets a knife and stabs the ghost repeatedly. Seiji recovers and finds himself stood in Yoko’s old home having murdered her father and mother. He killed his in-laws (as many no doubt wish they could)! But that was the past and this is the future so.. so… so time is cyclical? He travelled back through time? Or did the kitchen scene and him overlap just for that brief moment in time thus creating the illusion of a ghost in both scenarios? It just throws up too many questions…

Its like the Forbidden Siren series on the PS2… except that made sense and justified the looping time frame.

1.19.54 Yoko and Daiki are safe but Seiji is missing. A voice begins singing the theme tune. Oh, are we going to have a big song and dance finale!? Yokai and yurei and everyone comes out to do a big parade song and dance to send the audience off? It’s a fox wedding in the rain?!

No… No we don’t. But don’t rain on my parade as it’s a better ending to what we got.

It’s a boy sat facing the wall. It’s Ochanan! So Ochanan is her brother’s ghost? I… how does that work? His face looks ridiculous. (Then who was the ghost that turned him into Ochanan? … Or was Ochanan possessing him and took his form?) Then one of the half corpses comes down from the ceiling for a jump scare.

Cut to black.

The eyes are sliding along the highway again and the song is still being sung. Time is a flat circle.

Ochanan’s symbol is seen on a road sign. It’s the region’s symbol I guess. Yoko and Daiki look over the highway and their faces are now straw bales. So she was the ‘sexy lady walking dow the road being harassed by drunks’ woman too then? So Daiki was always half yokai/yurei? Were stalker-ghost and hand-missing-hammer-girl ghost actually Yoko’s parents? The CGI is badly overlapped onto their faces considering this is the final shot of the film… then the film’s ending theme song of soft rock kicks in. Horror always ends with soft rock in Japan. It’s the ‘music of the devil’ for a conservative audience with delicate sensibilities.

… What.

What was that ending all about? A sequel hook?

My sentiment of this film’s existence and a possible explanation of what they were going for with the time looping twist which failed miserably. You cannot escape your fate – only delay it until time repeats itself.

The film tries to combine a few of the anthology manga’s ‘true stories’ and makes for a really awkward mess in the end. There’s no logic and I made an effort to make it credible but it’s ridiculous. If they played it for laughs I would enjoy it but it seems to be earnest in its narrative. I liked the manga as the brevity of each story meant if you didn’t like one then, within a few pages, there was a different one (albeit a few themes got repeated like ghosts haunting walls or Ochanan) to read. Here they make a muddled mess of a narrative starting off with one idea and then deciding they might as well throw as much in as they can.

Have you see the Goosebumps film? Or at least the trailer? Same thing applies here. Trying to do too much from the source material to appease a wide a demographic as possible and ultimately under serving everything. The various concepts they could have gone with, if they focused on just one or two with common themes, are shown in their most basic form instead of their potential being explored. The stories are, as urban myths, all a bit generic but there is nothing wrong with that as long as you make an effort for the experience to be enjoyable. Sadly they don’t here and probably relied on brand recognition of the Fuan no Tane name for those already familiar with it as an already existing audience. A lot of film making companies do that nowadays but it’s a sad pattern.

This film in conclusion… don’t watch it. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table and it’s either dull or underplays what it does deliver. I came for a fun time – I leave pessimistic. I hope you enjoyed my account of it. It was more fun than the film was.