Requiem review: this Woman In Black style spook-fest spins plenty of mystery

Friday, 2nd February 2018, 8:48 am
Updated Friday, 2nd February 2018, 9:48 am

Stay away from the mirrors!

BBC One chiller Requiem may only offer hints of its deadly phantom in tonight's opening episode. But barely-glimpsed reflections of the ghostly presence - and their consequences - clearly show this entity is not to be taken lightly.

What's less clear from the first hour of the six-part series is whether Requiem itself will grow into a horror heavyweight, or fizzle out as a mere paranormal pretender.

Fortunately, part one musters enough intrigue and surprises to suggest it's worth sticking around to find out.

A haunted community

After an ominous opening puts us in no doubt that supernatural elements are at work, we are introduced to Matilda (Ripper Street's Lydia Wilson), a star cellist whose talents have led to sell-out concerts and the prospect of a move to New York.

But a shocking tragedy - and subsequent discovery - prompts Matilda to investigate the 20 year old case of a missing child. From there, things only get murkier.

There are early efforts to give this classical musician some edge (she smokes! she has one night stands!) but ultimately Matilda, despite the good work of Wilson, is not the most magnetic of protagonists.

What really makes Requiem work is the relatively intriguing story.

Joanna Scanlan co-stars in the supernatural drama (Photo: BBC)

Things start to come into their own when Matilda and trusty companion Hal turn detective and head off to rural Wales.

There are beautiful sweeping shots of countryside before we cut suddenly to a quaint market town, where not all the locals are friendly and the past may haunt the community both figuratively, and literally.

True to ghost story form, it isn't long before Matilda and Hal end up rooming for the night at a gigantic crumbling mansion, where a local landowner recently plunged to his death.

As you do.

Creepy clichés abound

You could argue Requiem pulls its horror punches a tad.

The series professes to wear influences such as The Omen and Don't Look Now on its sleeve. And it's certainly leaning towards atmosphere and obsession.

But at a key moment of shocking violence early on, the camera cuts away.

That said, it's early days yet. And there's no urgent need to dial up the dread right away. Instead, Requiem contents itself with moderately creepy clichés.

Don't look at the glass (Photo: BBC)

Ominous dreams. Accidental wounds producing droplets of blood. Music turning off and on again. And literal things going bump in the night.

The opening and final few minutes of the first episode suggest it has the potential to unnerve, but it's a patient slow-burner in the fear stakes.

Props must go to some imaginatively spooky sound design and music at certain moments. There are also pleasing shades of The Woman In Black, with the notion of a cursed spirit that may be leading people to suicide.

Hal is the real star

Game of Thrones' Joel Fry brings us the stand-out performance and character to begin with as the dryly funny, self-deprecating Hal.

He's initially skeptical of Matilda's mission, and rather wary of the newly minted Australian who invites them to stay at his pad.

It's fair to say he may want more from Matilda than just friendship.

Hal provides welcome comic relief, and is probably the most relatable character (Photo: BBC)

The cast, which also includes Joanna Scanlan, is soon to be further fleshed out too. Tara Fitzgerald is turning up next week.

Keeping things ambiguous

It's refreshing that reveals and plot progressions come at a surprising pace in the opening instalment.

A moment of realisation at the end of the first episode is key (though the audience has likely already connected the dots).

More strange is an obvious revelation that seems to be unveiled when Matilda tracks down the missing girl's mother at a funeral - yet neither she nor Hal comments on it.

Perhaps things are being kept deliberately ambiguous for now. What's clear is that there is much more of this mystery to unravel.

Requiem is on BBC One, Fridays at 9pm

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