BBC drama is 'scary, creepy and compelling'
INTRODUCING the premiere screening of The Living and the Dead at the British Film Institute in London, Charlotte Moore, the BBC's controller of TV channels and the iPlayer, had some foreboding words for us.
"I have to warn you," she said, "I had to turn the lights on when I watched this in my room. It's scary, creepy and utterly compelling. Unfortunately, if you need to turn the lights on in this cinema, you can't. Prepare to be scared."
She is right to warn us. Ashley Pharoah's unsettling new six-part drama is a highly effective chiller, which may well have you watching from behind the sofa as well as with all the lights turned on.
Set in the summer of 1894, Pharoah's original story centres on Nathan (Colin Morgan) and Charlotte Appleby (Charlotte Spencer), a very happily married couple.
After the death of his mother, they move into her remote family estate at Shepzoy, in deepest Somerset, and start running the farm there. It is an agrarian community on the brink of cataclysmic change, as the Industrial Revolution is about to transform everything.
Nathan is also an eminent psychologist. Out of kindness, he invites Harriet (Tallulah Rose Haddon), the disturbed teenage daughter of the local vicar, to come and stay with them. The hope is that under his care she will recover her mental equilibrium.
However, Harriet appears to be increasingly possessed by a seriously demonic spirit.
Before you can say "something wicked this way comes", the whole estate is in the grip of supernatural powers far beyond their control.
It is a house where if things go bump in the night, you can be sure that it is something way more sinister than a gust of wind. As the story unfolds, there are more twists and turns than on an Alpine road.
Pharoah, who has also created such successful otherworldly series as Life On Mars, Ashes To Ashes and Eternal Law, describes The Living and the Dead as, "Sigmund Freud meets Thomas Hardy with ghosts".
So just why are these fantastical stories proving such a hit with audiences at the moment? It may well be that they are a form of escapism from the tumult of contemporary life. Instead of facing up to the horrors of the modern world, we would far rather lose ourselves in the fantasy realm of Westeros or Shepzoy.
Pharoah observes that, "It is to do with escapism from the turbulence of the modern world. So much of our TV drama now is social realism, but I've always loved stuff on the edge of realism. This is about showing the skull beneath the skin and losing yourself in another world".
The Living and the Dead airs Wednesdays at 8.30pm on BBC First.