Tuesday, February 18, 2014

In short: Crooked House

Marked Gatiss's semi-episodic TV three-parter of stories in the tradition of the classic supernatural tale is a fine demonstration that even a talented writer with an obvious love, and quite deep knowledge, of the genre he’s working in will not necessarily produce a story in it that's actually all that great.

It's not just that Gatiss's approach here is a bit too conservative for my taste. I have seen, read and heard everything in Crooked House many times before, and enjoyed it, and would probably still have enjoyed it again even if it didn't add anything new at all to the genre. The problem lies with an execution where only the most obvious way to set-up and solve a situation is taken, where the so-called plot twists (an unnecessary thing at the best of times) are made particularly useless through their obviousness and - sorry - lameness. Crooked House's slavish adherence to tradition except for the existence of gay people (but don't you worry, it's not that the series does anything with them) ignores everything that's subversive about the British ghost story and turns it lifeless; if the British supernatural tale were an animal, Crooked House would rather prefer the stuffed and dead version to the living, breathing thing.

Being who I am, I'd still be able to find a lot of enjoyment in this subservient approach to tradition, but the lifelessness of Gatiss's script continues through to direction without any visual imagination, sets that lack any atmosphere, and acting on the theatrical and stiff side, because people in the past clearly talked liked people in the novels of the past. In combination, this number of flaws doesn't add up to something horrible, or unwatchable, but rather to something pointless.

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