!!! WARNING. THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS. !!!
History teacher Ben(Lee Ingleby) finds an old door knocker in his garden and interested in its origins, takes it to the curator of a local museum. The curator(Mark Gatiss) recognises it immediately as being the old door knocker from Geap Manor. After some cajoling from Ben, the curator relates the horrible history of the manor to his captivated audience. In the first story he tells, ruthless entrepreneur Joshua Bloxham(Philip Jackson) having recently moved into Geap Manor is making alterations to the interior. Hearing noises at night, he invests in a cat. When the noises continue, he soon finds out there are other things, apart from rodents that go bump in the night. In the second story, we reach 1927 and an announcement made at a party by foppish Felix(Ian Hallard) of his forthcoming marriage. However his bride-to-be starts seeing a mysterious shrouded figure in a wedding dress around the house. Only Felix's Grandmother Constance(Jean Marsh) knows the horrible truth, a truth that a gift of 'something old' to the bride soon brings out into the open. The third story, returning to the present day sees Ben return home with the door knocker, the curator allowing him to keep it. The knocker finds pride of place on Ben's front door. One night, Ben is awoken by a loud knocking at the door. He accidentially gets locked out of his house, but using the spare key he re-enters the house. He finds himself transported back to the beginnings of Geap Manor, where the original owner sowed the seeds of evil in the house by dabbling in the occult. Is the past reaching out to the present to threaten Ben.
I have finally managed to watch this, after missing it upon its original transmission.(Some of us do have to work at Christmas!). It's marvellous seasonal fayre, a triumphant return to the glory days of the Beeb's 'Ghost Story For Christmas'. Okay, it does owe as much to the Amicus anthology films as it does to those spine chilling M.R James adaptations, but thats fine by me, as it's a perfect marriage of styles. Gatiss has chosen his cast extremely well, as they all deliver pitch-perfect performances, and the period details are all exlemprary.
There is a streak of humour running through the framing story, with some witty exchanges between Ben and the Curator, but thankfully the supernatural tales themselves are played dead straight, delivering a fair quota of shudders as they progress. I do agree with a previous reviewer, who argued that sometimes less is more, and a mere suggestion than be just as frightening as a slightly ropey special effect. This is especially pertinent with regards to the climax of the first story. However thats a very minor quibble, as 'Crooked House' is a very fine anthology, dragging the traditional ghost story kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, and breathing new life into the genre in the process.
A nice array of extras on the disc too, if that floats your boat. As a complete package, I would highly recommend this release to all potential buyers. 5 out of 5