Eve Caleigh (Suranne Jones) is one of those mothers who has a psychic connection with her children, notably her young ‘un Cameron. They share dreams, have synchronised waking times and generally have a bit of The Shining going on. This makes it all the more embarrassing when Eve briefly nods off at a playground then wakes up to find Cameron missing. Boy, is her face red? “Ahahahahaha! You’re not going to believe what I did.” she tells husband Gabe (Tom Ellis) “This’ll kill you. No really”. It’s Kate McCann all over again. Just what is The Secret of Crickley Hall? Close to a year later and Cameron is still missing. Gabe suggests they move north for the anniversary of her mishap – he’s got a job offer up there and it will get them out of London and all the unhappy memories. Eve agrees and their surviving spawn Loren (Maisie Williams, recent winner of Aerial Telly’s best supporting female) and Cally (Pixie Davies) get on board too. “After all” Arya Stark tells her sister “There’s a very high statistical likelihood they murdered our brother – we’d better not fuck with them”. You’re not wrong, kid.
“Magda backs his every play and together they are
the kind of cruel baby starving Jew haters you imagine raised Mel Gibson.”
So it’s off to Crickley Hall they go – a big old spooky gaffe in the North of England. Percy Judd (David Warner), a personable neighbour who worked at Crickley Hall in the past welcomes them. It turns out the old house has something of a history and thanks to the narrative device of flashback we can see it.
Back in 1943 it’s an orphanage for children evacuated from the Blitz and the pretty young Nancy Linnet (Olivia Cooke) accepts the job tutoring the kids. Nancy is an orphan herself and has a gammy arm, something which endears her to Magda Cribben (Sarah Smart) who runs the orphanage with her brother Augustus Cribben (Douglas Henshall).
Those two really are a pair. Injured in the Blitz himself, Augustus is a brutal damaged religious zealot and sadist. “Spare the life-threatening beating, spoil the child” is his philosophy. Magda backs his every play and together they are
the kind of cruel baby starving Jew haters you imagine raised Mel Gibson. When Nancy blows the whistle on the abuse she gets the sack but young Percy believes her although mainly because he wants to put his cock in her. In the present day we learn that many of the orphans died in the flash flood of 1943. Old Percy tends their graves. Who knows what that could all be about?
“Cameron is talking to Eve through a magical spinning top for the first time since his disappearance, the ghost of Augustus is whacking the family with his spirit cane and all manner of hell is about to be let loose on the world.”
Back in 2012 it doesn’t take long before Cameron is talking to Eve through a magical spinning top for the first time since his disappearance, the ghost of Augustus is whacking the family with his spirit cane (not a euphemism) and all manner of hell is about to be let loose on the world. You really can’t beat those northern getaways can you?
It’s decent stuff this. Troubled parents in a haunted orphanage is not groundbreaking horror but Suranne Jones is a sympathetic convincing Eve, Douglas Henshall a strident infant beating spook and there’s nothing too nausey about the kids.
Adapted from the James Herbert novel it at least has the pedigree to suggest that the solution to the missing son/phantom caner problem won’t be a complete crock of shit. That battlefield tested formula of buried secrets, retro toys and child abuse wins again.
The verdict on The Secret of Crickley Hall: Just one more reason to avoid the North.
Marks out of 10: 7.5