Sunday 18 November 2012

The Secret of Crickley Hall - review

The Secret of Crickley Hall, based on a book by James Herbert, began on BBC One this evening, and I thought I'd give it a go, even though I've never read a Herbert novel. That's largely because I tend to associate him with rather graphic horror, but press coverage of the show suggests that the book on which this adaptation (by Joe Ahearne) is based relies more on the suggestion of evil than its vivid portrayal. And this was borne out when I watched episode one.

The starting point of the story is the disappearance of a young boy from a play area when his mother (Suranne Jones, from Scott and Bailey) falls asleep. The loss of a child is one of the most heartbreaking experiences imaginable, and even in a fictional context needs to be handled with a degree of sensitivity, which on the whole I thought the script and cast managed to achieve. Eleven months later, the boy still hasn't been found and she is still in denial. Her husband (Tom Ellis) persuades her and their two daughters to move to the north for a couple of months, for a change of scene around the anniversary of the disappearance.

Given the circumstances, their choice for a getaway is very unwise indeed - a remote spot which rejoices in the name of Devil's Cleave. And they move in to a spooky old stone mansion for good measure! Even worse, it tuns out that one of the neighbours is played by the splendid David Warner, a veteran of so many scary movies that it will be a great plot twist if he turns out to be one of the good guys (he seems to be at present, but it's early days).

Needless to add, spooky things soon start to happen at the house, and there seem to be parallels with a mysterious sequence of events in the 1940s, when the house was a school for orphans run by a brother and sister with distinctly weird personalities and an undue fondness for enforcing strict discipline. The brother (Douglas Henshall) is called Augustus Cribben, which really speaks volumes...

It's very difficult with this sort of material to avoid cliche, and The Secret of Crickley Hall exuberantly embraced most of the conventions of the ghost story. I didn't think that was a problem for Sunday night light entertainment, and I enjoyed the show enough to want to keep watching next week.


Anonymous said...

Martin - This does sounds like an enjoyably creepy beginning to the series. I'll look forward to what you think of the next instalment.

Anonymous said...

The village of Hollow Bay in James Herbert's book "The Secret Of Crickley Hall" is based on Lynmouth in Exmoor National Park, Devon and Devil's Cleave is the East Lyn Valley and Watersmeet.

The book brings together two stories, child evacuees during WW2 and the famous 1952 flood disaster that destroyed Lynmouth.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. Anon, I'm grateful for the info, which I didn't know before.