Requiem (2018)

requiemWith Requiem, the BBC (in a co-production with Netflix) jumps into the horror genre with some gusto, a six-part series about possession, ghosts, suicides, child abduction and murder, religious cultists and more, in a leafy town in Wales, of all places. Actually that setting is probably the series strongest point- its out of the familiar city and more into the remote Twin Peaks-vibe, with a cast of characters conveniently strange and complete with a ghostly mansion where bad things have been going on for centuries. And creepy caves in the woods. And dead sheep (did someone say there’s a werewolf in this?). And perfect hair, and perfect clothes that don’t seem to get dirty despite much traipsing through woods etc (or perhaps they get spookily dry cleaned overnight).

Subtlety is not this shows finest asset. Something I’ve criticised modern television of before, and to which I attribute Game of Thrones as the chief blame. In a need to grab viewers attention modern television feels that it has to shock and throw everything but the kitchen sink into shows now. Its not that Requiem is bad, its quite enjoyable really, but why so much has to be hurled into its six episodes is hard to fathom. We’re hardly ten minutes into it before somebody throws himself off the roof of the mansion. There’s little creepy atmosphere or slow horror- this is all in the Hammer Horror vein of yelling boo! at the viewer as often as possible with the central mystery (is lead character Matilda, platinum-blonde professional cellist from London correct in suspecting she is in fact Cerys, a child who went missing from the Welsh village of Penllynith twenty years ago) almost redundant. In just the same way as the Beeb’s Hard Sun a few months ago did, the central premise almost seems incidental and the makers too intent on throwing all sorts of ideas and complications into it, the characters having all sorts of sub-plots that stretch credulity.

Had it eased up a little bit and spread its revelations and twists and horrors over ten episodes rather than its rather rushed six, then perhaps it would have been a much better show with better characters and motivations. It must be noted that Game of Thrones itself was better over ten episodes than the rather rushed shorter seasons we are getting now, and imagining shows like Westworld being truncated to six is just as telling a consideration. As it is, Requiem squeezing all its arcs into six episodes comes across as all a little hysterical, with Matilda being incredibly irritating rather than sympathetic as she pretty much wreaks the Welsh locale with her obsession for ‘the truth,’ and when that truth finally arrives it lacks real impact. I’m quite possibly alone in this view, modern attention-spans likely prefer shorter series just as they approve of shorter movies.

And yet, even after that mad race across six episodes, just like with so many movies now, Requiem really just seems intent on teasing another series with an ending that feels rather hollow, and without the grounding that ten episodes might have enabled, it found me rather unable to care. Its all very lightweight and lacking in any emotional depth or impact that perhaps a similar show from the BBC in the ‘seventies might have had.  Frustrating really.

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