Ex­or­cise class

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re­leased oUT NoW! 2015 | 15 | dvd

Direc­tor richard Clark

Cast anna maxwell mar­tin, david Threlfall, oen­gus macNa­mara, Ni­cholas Pin­nock, Will at­ten­bor­ough

There’s been a del­uge of post-wa­ter­shed su­per­nat­u­ral dra­mas over the past few years, rang­ing from the sub­lime (The Fades) to the medi­ocre (Re­mem­ber Me). Thank­fully, due to the skilled stew­ard­ship of writer Stephen Volk (who has past form when it comes to this genre with Ghost­watch and the can­celled-toosoon Af­ter­life), Mid­win­ter Of The Spirit man­ages to mark it­self as a su­pe­rior, and art­fully un­nerv­ing adult drama.

Anna Maxwell Mar­tin is breath­lessly bril­liant as Mer­rily Watkins, the re­luc­tant Church of Eng­land ex­or­cist, or “de­liv­er­ance min­is­ter”, who’s pulled into a mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion with Satanic wor­ship and child abuse con­nec­tions. Watkins is the angsty ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal hero of a dozen­novel run of su­per­nat­u­ral thrillers by author Phil Rick­man, and this three-part drama is a faith­ful, but tight­ened adap­ta­tion of the sec­ond in the se­ries.

There are a few ef­fec­tive jump scares (most of which in­clude child abuser Den­zil Joy) and some pleas­ingly chill­ing sup­port­ing turns – Siob­han Fin­neran, as well-groomed di­a­bolist An­gela, glides from em­pathic and be­nign to cold-eyed men­ace in the twitch of an eye. In lesser hands this could have been a fa­tally over­cranked pro­duc­tion, but Volk and direc­tor Richard Clark keep ev­ery­thing emo­tion­ally grounded.

There’s no word yet on whether ITV are plan­ning more ad­ven­tures for Mer­rily Watkins, but given the multi-book source ma­te­rial, there are plenty more sto­ries ripe for the small-screen treat­ment. Don’t let this stay a one-off, ITV.

Ex­tras None. Steve O’Brien

When Rick­man’s se­ries was last op­tioned it clashed with 2008’s Ap­pari­tions. “No­body wanted to touch ex­or­cists af­ter that.”

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