Thursday, 29 November 2012
I'm still enjoying The Secret of Crickley Hall on the jolly old BBC. With two out of three episodes down I'm beginning to see the light. I noted some familiar James Herbert ingredients, notably some tricksiness over identity, and the tendency of people with psychic powers to get in harm's way, swear off it all, then go and do it all over again. The ugly side of UK history is also a Herbertian trope, and here it's amply illustrated by the 'baddies', with their pro-Nazi sympathies. Oh, and there's sex. For good characters sex is honest and loving, even if prudes and hypocrites disapprove. For bad characters sex is always something furtive and sordid, and linked to some great wrongdoing. That's not always how it goes in a Herbert story, but it's the way to bet.
I can also see why Joe Ahearne wanted to adapt and direct. The story offers a powerful mixture of the claustrophobic (people in an isolated house with the ghost of a sadist) with the careful unfolding of two plot lines which both offer some good twists. The historical past, far from being dead, lives on and interacts with the present in real life, but sometimes the ghost story reminds us of this more powerfully than any 'realistic' plot device can. There's also some typical gallows humour and a sense of high stakes being played for that Ahearne brought to Ultraviolet and the less acclaimed, but still interesting Apparitions. As in those earlier series, there's the conviction that individual actions do matter, no matter how Quixotic they may seem, and no matter what sacrifices may be required. However, if you want to read Ahearne's own views on it all, they are blogged here.
Incidentally, for e-reader types, the script of episode one can be downloaded here. I find scripts sometimes cast interesting sidelights on what we've seen - or think we've seen. Here's the opening scene, with that familiar but very effective trope - the apparently innocent children's game with a menacing subtext.
EXT. CRICKLEY HALL - 1943 DAY 1 1
Six year old STEFAN runs from the big grey stone slab of
Crickley Hall, more institutional than residential.
On the farm no poor rabbit
Comes to harm because I grab it
They jump and frolic whenever I go by
They know I help 'em to dodge the rabbit
A figure grabs him by the collar and lifts him off his feet.
Stefan kicks wildly in mid-air as he pivots to face his
tormenter. Terrified that it might be:
AUGUSTUS CRIBBEN. We don’t see his face yet.