All Fright In The 1970s

SFX - - Reviews -

re­leased 19 oc­to­ber 2015 | 15 | DVD

Di­rec­tor Kristof­fer Ny­holm

Cast Ti­mothy Spall, Matthew MacFadyen, Juliet Steven­son, Rosie Cava­liero, Eleanor Wor­thing­ton- Cox

Based on a no­to­ri­ous real- life case from the late ’ 70s, in which a coun­cil house fam­ily was plagued by mis­be­hav­ing fur­ni­ture and de­monic voices, this three- part se­ries achieved Sky Liv­ing’s best ever rat­ings back in May. But it’s not quite as suc­cess­ful as that statis­tic might sug­gest.

Eleanor Wor­thing­ton- Cox is ex­cel­lent as Janet Hodg­son, the be­liev­ably blunt, cheeky 11- yearold girl at the cen­tre of it all. There are a few de­cent shocks ( par­tic­u­larly a sur­real meat­carv­ing night­mare se­quence). And the pe­riod is evoked ef­fec­tively, with all its brown wall­pa­per, over- sized col­lars and David Soul posters.

Whether, as star Ti­mothy Spall claims, the mun­dan­ity of the set­ting, “in a sense makes it even scarier” is de­bat­able, though. There’s an in­escapable com­edy bathos to see­ing a sin­is­ter spirit pop­ping up in­side a View- Master, or a poltergeist chuck­ing the mar­bles from a game of KerPlunk about. Ditto a pos­sessed young girl yelling, “Stick it up your arse!”

Those fa­mil­iar with the real- life story may also be sur­prised by how much has been fab­ri­cated to pro­vide both a back­story for the haunt­ings, and an added emo­tional di­men­sion, with para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tor Mau­rice Grosse ( Spall) here driven by an ob­ses­sion with his own dead daugh­ter ( also called Jane). There’s a de­gree to which forc­ing this case to con­form to a tra­di­tional dra­matic tem­plate de- em­pha­sises its am­bi­gu­i­ties and smoothes away the rough edges that make it so in­ter­est­ing.

Ex­tras Five short promo pieces ( 13 min­utes), pre­vi­ously avail­able online. Ian Ber­ri­man

When Janet Grosses’s life sup­port is turned off, her brother and sis­ter are played by the real- life brother’s son and daugh­ter.

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