Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Marchlands (2011)

NetFlix N/A
IMDB 7.4/10
My Rating: 8/10

In this ITV 5 part miniseries, 3 families across 3 different time periods are impacted by the supernatural repercussions of a young girl's death.

During the years we lived overseas, we watched a lot of BBC via our satellite dish but very little ITV, other than the occasional US TV shows they'd run.  ITV was... Well, as the Brits might say, it was Chav-TV.  Reality shows by the ton, trashy soaps about self-obsessed young people having sex all the time, and just generally not what you'd think of as intelligent television.  That's why I was all the more surprised to be so impressed with this show - When did ITV start making TV for people who weren't the UK equivalent of Dittoheads?  (Normally I'd pick on the Tea Party as my example of Stupidus Americanus, but Rush is on my mind at the moment for his absolutely hilarious and roundly internet-mocked accusations that comicbook villain Bane is a liberal conspiracy to make Mitt Romney look bad.  Nevermind that Rush would probably be a Bane fan if he'd just get to know him...)

So, Marchlands is a great show.  Let's just start with that up front.  You especially need to see this if you're an old-school horror fan, because the style of scares here is right out of The Haunting or The Legend of Hell House.  This is not full up with jerkycam ghosts and "BOO!" jump scares - Instead, we're introduced to a cast that we believe in and invest in, and we're slowly drawn into the mystery of the hauntings that occur... So slowly that when something genuinely creepy happens, the skin goes all prickly.

The story is really three stories in one.  In the 1960's, a young couple live with parents in the titled household and cope with grieving over the loss of their daughter.  Mysterious circumstances surround her accidental drowning and the heartbroken mother is essentially walled out by the "Everything must be normal" facade of her family and village friends.  In the 80's, a family with children live in the same house and find their daughter increasingly targeted by an unseen presence that she calls her "invisible friend".  And in the present day, a young couple buy the house for their quiet country escape and find something is very interested in their newborn baby.

All three tales connect in ways both expected and unexpected.  It reminded me somewhat of American Horror Story in this respect with the house's past always lurking right on the edge of the current day experience and giving deeper layers of meaning to all sorts of seemingly casual occurrences.  It isn't so intense as American Horror Story, though - While AHS was like a steam train barreling directly at you, Marchlands is more of a soft touch...  Just a delicate whisper of scares here and there, just enough to keep you uneasy.  It helps that the characters are so real.  Alex Kingston departs from her River Song persona in Doctor Who to embody a frustrated, anxious 80's housewife, and the producers did a great job at choosing look-alike actors to play younger and older versions of the same characters across the time span.

To enjoy it the most, don't look at it as a horror series, look at it as a mystery with horror elements.  The cloud overhanging the death of the young girl is gradually unveiled over the series and for once, everything wraps to a tidy conclusion without any jarring, "Let's throw this in just to be clever" twists - It's smart but doesn't try to be TOO smart.  Worth seeing!

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