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A revival of BBC ghost stories
on 19 November 2013
Originally broadcast on 22-24 December 2008 in three 30 minute episodes, Crooked House has been slightly (but seamlessly) re-edited into a continuous 90 minute story for this BBC DVD release. It was written and co-produced by actor and writer Mark Gatiss who found fame in the 1999 BBC series The League of Gentlemenand who later he presented the widely regarded 2010 BBC series A History of Horror.
The three episodes of Crooked House concern the secrets of fictional Geap Manor, a recently demolished Tudor mansion in Windsor. The link for all three stories is history teacher Ben Morris (Lee Ingleby) who has found an old but rather creepy door knocker in his garden and interested in its origins. The curator of the local museum (Mark Gatiss in superb unsettling form) recognises it immediately as being the old door knocker from Geap Manor. After some cajoling from Ben, he relates three horrible stories.
The first, "The Wainscoting", is set in 1786 and is about the story of Joseph Bloxham, a selfish but sucessful capitalist who buys and improves the Manor, after realising an investment which ruined his fellow speculators. Strange noises are heard behind the newly installed wainscoting. The wood came from the pillars of the gallows known as the 'Tyburn Tree' an infamous eighteen century triangular gallows.
The second story, "Something Old", takes place in 1927, where, at the Manor, a lavish costume ball is being held. During the ball the young well-to-do Felix de Momery announces his engagement to pretty Ruth, much to the concern of his grandmother and annoyance of his friends. However, the young couple's future (and survival) is linked with another tragic wedding day and a ghostly bride who haunts the corridors.
In the third episode, "The Knocker", Ben himself discovers that, even though recently demolished, Geap Manor continues to cast a long shadow. Recently split from his girlfriend, he finds that his modern house has been built on the site of the Manor, it can be altered by events from the Manor's Tudor past. The tension in this episode builds nicely and by the end is palpable. The switching between present and past is really well handled.
This production delights in old fashioned creepy build up without the blood and guts visceral effects of many modern horror films and it is all the better for that. It makes you think, always a sign of good horror. Highly recommended.