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Arrow Video Frightfest 2022: Two Very Contrasting UK Television Pilots

Image courtesy of IJPR

Wreck (dir Chris Baugh)

Oscar Kennedy as Jamie and Jack Rowan as Danny getting to know each other in Wreck

Created/written by Ryan J. Brown, Wreck is a new comedy/horror/mystery set on a colourful and pretentious cruise liner. Jamie (Oscar Kennedy) joins the staff of the Sacramentum under false pretenses in order to find out what happened to his sister who went missing six months earlier. We get to know the ship and as Jamie does, via a guided tour from the tyrannical cruise manager; and in the rest of the episode get to know some of its key staff; entertainers, hospitality, mafia, and bottom-rung cleaners.

The characters include a healthy proportion of queer representation (both subtle and blatant), and they are all distinctly bubbly and larger-than-life without quite reaching caricature level. Not many of them seem to like each other, competing or sneering instead, like school kids, so it’s refreshing when Jamie forms a bond with another newbie, Vivian (Thaddea Graham). Together, they try to figure out who knew Jamie’s sister Pippa, and if anyone can shed light on her fate. All we know from the pre-credits scene is that she was panicking and being chased by someone in a duck costume.

Wreck has plenty of humour, both situational and witty, with a cheeky, mischievous tone for the most part; the weird tension seen in that prologue doesn’t arise much at all. I have to assume the disproportionate slant towards comedy is down to the scene-setting nature of the pilot episode and that there will be more horror and mystery later. I did chuckle several times through the 45-minute duration and the central characters are endearing, but I found myself quite uninterested in the victims or the person in the duck outfit, and the mystery aspect (including the mystery of why it is called Wreck) is nowhere near gripping enough to turn this short series into a weekly commitment.

A special preview of Wreck episode one screened at Arrow Video FrightFest on 26 August and is coming soon to BBC Three and BBC iPlayer.


The Devil’s Hour (dir Johnny Allan and Isabelle Sieb)

Jessica Raine as Lucy Chambers waking up in The Devil's Hour

This one was very different, serious, and compelling in comparison to the lightly loopy WreckThe Devil’s Hour is apparently a name given to the hour between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., and the central character Lucy Chambers (Jessica Raine) regularly wakes up at 3:33 a.m., sometimes having had a bad dream or heard something in the house. On occasion, her young son Isaac (Benjamin Chivers) is in the room too… but he’s actually much more interesting than Lucy’s sleeping habits. He is described as “placid”, shows no emotion or interest in anything, engages with very little and Lucy is barely able to relate to him. She has much better success in understanding the people (children and adults) that she meets in her child services job.

In a seemingly separate plot strand, we also follow two police detectives who are investigating a murder and may have identified a connection with an older case. No doubt you’ve also heard that Peter Capaldi features in The Devil’s Hour; but in this opening episode, he appears only in a couple of scenes, and I really cannot tell you who he is or the purpose his character serves: his character is mysterious, sinister and strangely knowing. The relationship between these various characters and their stories only starts to become apparent towards the end of the pilot.

It’s funny: I had no major issues with Wreck, but it just didn’t grab me, but this one is the opposite: I found myself gripped despite myself. I rolled my eyes at several aspects along the way, but couldn’t take those eyes off the screen, nonetheless. Some of the characters and the way they are presented are quite formulaic, for example: in order to understand Lucy’s issues with her son, we get exposition via a child therapist; and the two detectives are very much two-dimensional “types” (at least so far). DS Nick Holness (Alex Ferns) is overweight and DI Ravi Dhillon (Nikesh Patel) is over-sensitive: no doubt both are good at their jobs, but I just know I’ve seen or read these characters before.

The other key issue is the style of the show, visual, and writing combined. At first, everything felt a little too polished, every individual character a little too sincere; there were precisely selected flashing images at times, representing Lucy’s “déjà vu”, and at other times, delicate close-ups, such as of trembling fingers. Nothing wrong with any of these techniques, of course, but all put together they became too much: The Devil’s Hour felt to me almost like gothic melodrama in gritty thriller clothing.

Many of the performances are frankly mediocre. A couple, such as Patel, and Barbara Marten (who plays Lucy’s aging mother, and who I last saw about thirty years ago in Casualty) are good, but only one stands out as memorable: this was the young Chivers, who I really want to see more of. I’m intrigued to see more of Capaldi too, of course, but I’m not terribly bothered about the rest. I will almost certainly want to watch the whole six episodes in due course, just out of curiosity about how the plot strands will come together, so perhaps the characters will develop a little more meaning to me over the show’s duration.

A special preview of The Devil’s Hour episode one screened at Arrow Video FrightFest on 27 August and is coming soon to Amazon Prime Video.


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Written by Alix Turner

Alix discovered both David Lynch and Hardware in 1990, and has been seeking out weird and nasty films ever since (though their tastes have become broader and more cosmopolitan). A few years ago, Alix discovered a fondness for genre festivals and a knack for writing about films, and now cannot seem to stop. They especially appreciate wit and representation on screen, and introducing old favourites to their teenage daughter.

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