Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV; Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Discovers Shades of the Shining in New Supernatural Drama the Living and the Dead

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV; Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Discovers Shades of the Shining in New Supernatural Drama the Living and the Dead

Article excerpt

Byline: Alastair McKay

WE HAVE not been long in the vicarage when the omens start. There is a prick with the thorns of a rose, a scary doll, a creaking floor. Did I mention the vicarage? Yes, there is a pretty lady sewing a sampler, and a young girl with "an alert and voracious mind" (code for: she's at that difficult age where hormones are screwy and behaviour becomes so unpredictable that the parents are no longer sure whether their sweet baby girl is the froth-mouthed spawn of the devil. Perhaps Satan is upstairs riding a tricycle down the very long corridor.) "Harriet?" says the vicar. "We heard a voice. A man's voice."

Yes, you know where you are with The Living and the Dead (BBC iPlayer), a supernatural horror yarn by Ashley Pharaoh, who showed his grasp of pop culture in Life on Mars. The new drama is an excuse to fool around with audience expectations. The costumes are Gothic Somerset, circa 1894; the manners are Hammer horror via The Exorcist in the style of Mumford & Sons. Actually, that voice, croaky and pained, like Keith Harris and Orville passing through an industrial mincer, is very much from The Shining, though I'm sure there's a PhD to be written on the history of the ventriloquism of the possessed in modern cinema.

The Hammer bits are related to the new-fangled science and the couple who've moved to the country from That London, with their fancy metropolitan ways. There's Nathan Appleby (Colin Morgan), who's not long back from Vienna, where he was exploring psychological trauma, and his fragrant, freckly wife Charlotte (Charlotte Spencer), a dog photographer.

She is keen to get on with offending the yokels by speaking in Latin and ordering a traction engine to make the farm more efficient, accidentally

giving the knuckle-draggers and their Marxist sheep more time to glower and bleat and nail rooks to branches and sing songs about Christ receiving the soul while they die mysteriously in between morris dances.

So, yes. The dumb vicar asks Nathan to take a look at the possessed girl, Harriet (Tallulah Haddon) who -- as well as saying odd things about men visiting her room -- is "subdued" and given to kissing ducklings when she's not reading Ibsen, Zola and Darwin. …

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