LOCKWOOD & CO Series One
UK/US Netflix, streaming now Showrunner Joe Cornish
Cast Ruby Stokes, Cameron Chapman,
Ali Hadji-heshmati, Ivanno Jeremiah
Imagine a world in which ghosts run riot, killing the living with just one touch. A universal curfew now prevents people from going outside at night, when the spooks are at their most dangerous. “The Problem”, the name given to this immense haunting, has been ongoing for 50 long years, resulting in a Britain that looks like ours but has missed out on many technological advances (we can assume people were too busy trying not to die to invent, say, iphones).
The only defence humanity has against the undead are children: some youngsters can sense ghostly presences and, with training, can destroy or contain the spectres with rapiers, iron chains and silver blankets. Picture youthful Ghostbusters, but without the fancy gadgetry.
This is the premise Jonathan Stroud dreamed up for his Lockwood & Co book series, a mighty fine starting point for Joe Cornish to have developed into this perky and compelling show. Seemingly a hybrid of Florence Pugh and Jenna Coleman, Ruby Stokes excels as Lucy Carlyle, a psychic who teams up with the titular ghost-hunting agency and uncovers everything from conspiracies to outright murder.
Her companions are the Egon Spengler-esque George (Ali Hadji-heshmati) and Cameron Chapman’s Anthony Lockwood – who isn’t quite as sparkling and charismatic as the story wants him to be, but still capable of pulling off “cocky yet vulnerable”. Together the trio investigate haunted houses, haunted graveyards and, er, even more haunted houses, fighting off gruesome ghosties with brawn, brains and lots of quipping.
Unsurprisingly given the premise, a good chunk of time is spent watching people waving torches around as they explore abandoned buildings in the middle of the night, which does get rather repetitive. But this is made up for by flashes of genius.
For example, riffing on Blade’s iconic “blood sprinklers”, we get a beautifully shot sequence involving a ghost-repelling salt sprinkler system. The soundtrack throws in suitably gothic songs by The Cure and Bauhaus to accentuate the fact that culture has been held back by The Problem; some things, such as music, are still stuck in the ’80s. And the London on display here, its streets deserted after dark and dripping with ghostly threats, is utterly fascinating.
There are also pleasing guest star turns from Sherlock’s Louise Brealey, the legend that is Nigel Planer, and (in a recurring role) Luke Treadaway, who rocks some killer eyeliner as a chap called The Golden Blade.
With only two of Stroud’s five books covered so far, there’s more delicious ghoulie-busting waiting to be unleashed. Fingers crossed that Netflix won’t have a Problem with bringing us more. Jayne Nelson
The window of ghost-hunting agency supply store Satchell’s is in reality the Piccadilly branch of Waterstones.
Picture young Ghostbusters, but without the fancy gadgetry