The Harrowing

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All things come to an end and this is especially unfortunate in the case of Inside No 9 (the wait for series two will be unbearable).  For the last six weeks I have found myself glued to the screen while the episodes have played out, each one a different but technically brilliant experiment in anthology story telling.  Hopefully these fully-formed, exceptionally crafted tales have whet the appetite for more daring, inventive television.

The final episode promised ‘full-on gothic horror’ and for me, certainly did not disappoint, with an eerie atmosphere combined with some wonderful comic moments creating a compelling half-hour of television.  The real standouts of this episode were the schoolgirl characters of Katy (Aimee Ffion Edwards) and Shell (Poppy Rush) who are drawn in to ‘baby sitting’ for Andras (Sean Buckley), the brother of Hector (Reece Shearsmith) and Tabitha (Helen McCrory), but soon find there is more to the job than first advertised.

The wonderful thing about the episode were the relatively small, yet deeply disturbing touches, such as an early shot of a tray holding a rusk, a milk bottle and a pair of pliers.  Instantly, it sets the viewer up for a discomfort that continues throughout the episode, punctuated by laugh out loud one-liners.

For me, Poppy Rush as Shell is a total show-stealer, delivering her comic moments perfectly.  This isn’t to sell short anyone else involved, just that she is absolutely perfect as the gothy teenager who sees One Direction in macabre oil paintings.  Also, I feel the need to mention how wonderful the music is, evoking all the great sounds from 1970s horror films. While some more hardened horror fans may not find the climax all that scary, I was certainly unnerved by it and it was definitely one of those things that kept returning to my mind.

Despite it being on television, the design and direction lend it a real cinematic quality that makes it easy to be absorbed into.  The beautifully designed posters to accompany each episode have also added to this.  Simply put, the series should be considered a landmark, not only in comedy-horror anthology terms, but in straightforward drama terms for the way in which it has blended high concepts, creative limitations and well-crafted characters.

My only complaint, which as I understand it is out of the control of the creators, is that there are no commentaries on the DVD.  Pemberton and Shearsmith always produce fascinating commentaries and I have so many questions about how certain decisions were made and how effects were achieved as well as the overall writing process.  In fairness though, Reece Shearsmith has been doing a fantastic job of answering questions on his Twitter (@ReeceShearsmith).

The series is up on BBC iPlayer for two more days and the DVD is now available too.    

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