Did we like it?
A creepy drama that enjoyably employs atmosphere to instil a sense of foreboding and in so doing injects an unoriginal tale of a haunted house with some beguiling originality.
What was good about it?
• Bill Paterson as Douglas Monaghan, who stimulated what would otherwise have been a laborious, but necessary slog centring on the Golden Dawn occult, whose members once occupied the lavish isolated mansion and whose diabolic practices have left it stained with their guilty souls.
• The ponderous, methodical nature was disseminated throughout the rest of the dramatic elements, and largely performed with great adroitness. The sweeping panoramic vistas of untamed Scottish countryside, Douglas Monaghan striding through the Glasgow streets with a sorrowful expression that he would usually save for funerals, the black clouds histrionically fleeing the haunted house as the restless spirits were gradually being awakened – all of these details combined to create a chilling ambience that made the conclusion of this first part all the more terrifying when visions of the dead occupants started to appear in mirrors.
• As well as possessing a skill for spooking the new inhabitants of the house, the ghosts also have an excellent taste in music as when they attempted to scare Karen (Neve McIntosh) by turning on the radio they immediately switched to the preferable drone of white noise whenever Kaiser Chiefs or Razorlight came on.
• The technique of blending the action between the modern day and the early 20th century worked effectively. For instance, occultist Robert’s servant Alisha would exit a room and walk into the corridor out of sight, the camera would follow her and pick up on Karen as she walked in to the room Alisha had just left. The use of different lenses and vision effects also helped forge an impression of flux.
• At times, it did seem to borrow rather heavily from The Shining, but easily brought a distinctive identity through the superb cast and eerie moments such as Douglas’s visit to a surly vicar.
What was bad about it?
• While many of the scenes benefited from the slow build up of atmosphere, some descended to depths not seen since cheap American horror flicks were driven from this land as uncouth barbarians. As Douglas arrived at the house, Karen greeted him by peering into his car in a facile shock-horror moment. And later as Ian (Ben Miles) wandered the house at night, he was similarly surprised by Karen as his wife opened a door.
• And while the incidental music was often perfectly wedded the slithering apprehension on screen, on a number of occasions it was cloyingly overused and cumbersome. Each time the action switched from modern to past and vice versa, it was needlessly heralded by a cymbal shivering. But the worst case was when Karen revealed to Douglas what she had written on her pad when she was possessed by spirits. As she uttered the word “leave”, there was a crash that would have sounded more appropriate accompanying God’s tether being snapped by the barbarity of humanity in some 1950s cinema epic. What made it even more pointless was the keen perspicacity in Bill Paterson’s eyes that expressed the horrifying significance far more than any piece of music.