School of witchcraft and misery
released OUT NOW! 2014-2015 | N/a available to stream for free Directors Natasha arthu, Kaspar Munk Cast sebastian Jessen, Julie Zangenberg, Nicolaj Kopernikus, Julie Christiansen, Frederikke dahl Hansen, Katrine rosenthal
What do you get if you cross Twilight’s veggie vampires with a Nordic detective series? Well, maybe something a bit like Heartless. The question is, why would you want to?
Set in a prestigious boarding school, this eight-episode Danish drama (originally aired in two batches of five and three) follows twins Sofie (Julie Zangenberg) and Sebastian (Sebastian Jessen) as they try to navigate around power-mad prefects and strict house rules to find a cure for their shared curse. They’re afflicted with a hunger that drives them to feed off other people – specifically, to suck out other people’s lifeforce through their mouths or, er, genitals, and if they suck too hard, their victims spontaneously combust. Obviously that puts a bit of a damper on their love lives, and they’re keen to get the curse lifted. Their research has led them to the Ottmannsgaard school, but some of the other students have sinister secrets of their own, and if the twins’ secret gets out, it’ll get them killed.
Heartless is one of the first international TV shows to launch in the UK this January as part of Channel 4’s new on-demand service Walter Presents, available free at all4.com/walterpresents – in case you’re wondering, it’s named after exec Walter Iuzzolino, who’s “curating” the slate. Unfortunately, though it has lots of potential for drama and heartbreak, it’s not a very good advert for the channel’s other offerings. Beneath the moody colour palette and grungy soundtrack, it hasn’t got any of the intelligence of The Killing, or any of the fun schlockiness of something like True Blood – it’s just a silly story about magic rapists looking for love. It’s hard to get invested in any of the characters, because they’re all horrible; not one of the twins’ allies, lovers or enemies is worth rooting for, so even when the mystery is unravelling, it never feels like it matters.
It doesn’t help that the twins themselves are too wrapped up in their doomed romances to do any proper investigating, so the show just doles out information in the form of historical flashbacks instead. There’s a glimmer of something interesting there, as several well-worn witch-hunting tropes get turned inside out, but before it can properly develop, it’s pushed aside in favour of more whinging. A lot of plot threads get similarly dropped along the way – a ghost shows up for one episode and is never mentioned again, for example – while the actual story unfolds so slowly you’d get the gist even if you just skipped straight to the finale after episode two.
The final episode ends on a cliffhanger, but even Edward Cullen at his sulkiest was more appealing than these guys, so it seems unlikely anyone’ll be hungry for more. It’s an obvious joke, but Heartless kind of sucks. Sarah Dobbs
It’s hard to invest in the characters, as they’re all horrible
Shirley loathed being tripped up.