Thursday, 13 March 2014

INSIDE NO. 9, 1.6 – 'The Harrowing'

Thursday, 13 March 2014

As the episode's title suggests, the final instalment of Inside No 9 was a straightforward horror with flashes of comedy. Considering how much of this series has felt like an evolution for Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton's writing, thanks to the extra doses of maturity, I don't begrudge them having some fun with a story and characterisations that felt less of a stretch—and something of a loose throwback to their League of Gentlemen days.

The set-up was elegantly handled and a great deal of fun, as school girl Katy (Skins' Aimeé-Ffion Edwards) came to babysit for eccentric siblings Hector (Reece Shearsmith) and Tabitha (Helen McCrory) in their large, draughty suburban house. Katy stepped into what felt like a Hammer Horror movie; as the walls were hung with paintings depicting Hell, and there was a strong suggestion the home-owners were modern-day vampires (although Hector was quick to assure Katy his long fingernails were evidence of his guitar-playing).

Katy's main duty was to look after the house until Hector and Tabitha's two o'clock return, although a seed of dread was planted knowing their disabled brother Andras (Sean Buckley) was bed-ridden somewhere upstairs—unable to call for help because he "has no mouth", but can reach for a bell he's never had cause to ring... until tonight, naturally...

"The Harrowing" was a splendid half-hour of creepiness and rich atmosphere, punctured by occasional jokes and silly lines. The marvel of the episode was how the gags never managed to kill the mood, and this finale actually contained the series tensest moments and freakiest visuals (particularly once the emaciated, cloven hoofed brother was revealed in his four-poster bed). I also thought the performances from Edwards and her goth friend Shell (Poppy Rush) was a lot of fun, as they investigated the bizarre house, although some of the scares towards the end didn't have quite the impact I'd have liked—mainly because the girl's reactions were oddly subdued considering the insanity Katy eventually uncovered.

Still, this was a relatively minor complaint for an episode that was once again consistently entertaining and brilliant assembled. Also appreciate the decision to avoid shoehorning Steve Pemberton into a role (Andras?) if the story clearly needed a different actor, or the ideal role wasn't really available, rather like how Reece Shearsmith didn't appear in "The Last Gasp". With a few tweaks here and there, I'd probably enjoy a spin-off show with Shearsmith and the excellent Helen McCrory in a British version of Dark Shadows-meets-The Addams Family, too.

12 March 2014 | BBC2