As we begin The Thirteenth Tale Margaret (Olivia Colman), a biographer right out of the Ryman League, approaches the sinister Gothic abode of successful and ancient writer Vida Winter (Vanessa Redgrave). Vida receives Margaret in the library, lying on the couch like a massive twat. She’s a crotchety old broad this one, dying too – riddled with cancer like the final season of Buffy is riddled with Joss Whedon‘s white knighting douchebaggery. Very soon she’ll be living la Vida croak-ah¹ and she wants her final testament down sharpish.
Her baleful Gothic voice addresses Margaret. “You’re going to write my biography, Sophie from Peep Show, Inspector Fuckface from Boredchurch and Chav O’Shaughnessy from Channel 4’s “laugh? I nearly self-harmed” Run or my name’s not Vida “nuclear” Winter.” The mournful Gothic face of Olivia Colman contorts into a hideous grimace as she contemplates the appalling vista (and I’m not talking about Windows ²). “Yeah whatevs you old skank” she responds “Let’s get to it”.
Dying too – riddled with cancer like the final season of Buffy is riddled with Joss Whedon’s white knighting douchebaggery.
Just like Nazi doctors and twincest enthusiasts horror can’t get enough of twins so it’s fitting that Vida grew up as one half of psycho twins Adeline (Sophie Turner as the young, pre-name change Vida) and Emmeline March (Antonia Clarke). Raised by their shit mental mom (who appears to be banging her mental brother) in a giant foreboding mansion out in the cuntry the girls are pretty much left to their own devices growing up. They speak in their own language, sack the topiary garden like the Romans at Carthage and fuck up a baby by pushing it in a pram down a hill.
They speak in their own language, sack the topiary garden like the Romans at Carthage and fuck up a baby by pushing it in a pram down a hill.
There’s nothing funnier than pushing a baby in a pram down a hill but this innocent childhood prank sets off a chain of events that leads to bad, bad things happening for everyone.
The crazy infants Adeline and Emmeline are hilarious – sullen and feral, a redheaded double threat to anyone who gets in their way.
The Thirteenth Tale is terrific. Death, insanity, cruelty, spectres and a cavernous old shitbox of a house in the middle of nowhere – all your favourite horror elements are here, expertly handled by Christopher Hampton’s clever adaptation of Diane Setterfield’s novel. The crazy infants Adeline and Emmeline are hilarious – sullen and feral, a redheaded double threat to anyone who gets in their way. Unsettling throughout, it’s got Redgrave and Colman doing fine work portraying the mutually dependent, unhealthy as hell working relationship that drives it.
If you want to end 2013 on a sustained fearful tragic note, watching this is how you should do it.
The verdict: Twin sours.
Marks out of 10: 8
¹ Fuck you. It works.
² Fuck you. Windows Vista is never not topical.