Crooked House DVD review

Rob revisits Mark Gatiss' Crooked House as it arrives on DVD...

Originally shown last Christmas on BBC4, Crooked House is a three part horror anthology written by League Of Gentlemen star Mark Gatiss, whose love for Victorian and Edwardian horror is well known (he even has a mad scientist’s lab in his house).

Without relying on gore, blood and shocks, these tales harken back to fireside stories filled with dread, filmed and told in a slow methodical tempered way, with the horror and sheer creepiness building up over the three ‘episodes’. And there’s a finale that, like so many of these types of stories, leaves us on a dread-filled note.

Focusing around a lovely knocker, (yes, a Simon Groom from Blue Peter ‘door’ knocker) the stories all focus on Geap Manor, the ‘Crooked House’ to which the knocker belongs. Dug up from his garden which lies in the grounds of the ancient estate (in the form of a new housing development), the main character, Ben, takes the knocker to a museum curator played by Gatiss,who over the next hour and a half weaves three terrifying tales to do with Geap Manor.

The first story entitled The Wainscoting is set in the 18th century where the original purchaser, Joseph Bloxham, finds more than he bargains for in the walls of the house. The timbers of the house release their ghostly occupants as the wood used in the construction is from a Tyburn tree, a cheaper alternative to a set of hanging gallows.

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The next tale shifts the focus to the 1920s where aristocrat Felix de Momery’s engagement party comes to a shocking end when a ghostly bride comes to visit.

Finally, we are bought up to date with Ben being the main focus of the story as his house and failed love life become the catalyst in bringing back a necromancer called Sir Roger Widdowson, whose sinister life and evil work is felt in each of the two other stories.

With some superb writing and well acted parts from an ensemble cast of famous television faces which includes Jean Marsh, Julian Rhind-Tutt, and even Derren Brown (as a cameo), the entire show is held together by the superb Gatiss who shifts from bumbling storyteller to dark malevolence so easily.

As with other portmanteau horror films such as, say, Creepshow, Tales From The Darkside or The Twilight Zone, there is a tendency to fast forward to the next story if you are not enamored by the twisted tale you are currently watching. However, all the stories played out in the show are of equal high quality and at no point was there the temptation to jump chapters as each has its own unique creepy nature. And, while they are all based in the ‘Crooked House’, they are sufficiently different to really make things work.

Overall, a chilling little piece of quality drama that was seemingly lost in the Christmas schedules last year. This really is worth tracking down for those who like their horror in the more traditional vein and have an eye for detail, quality and a great scare.


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While the filming, direction, acting and writing of the show are all superb, the extras are quite generic, which really can be expected for a BBC show that cannot rely on hours of documentaries about sound-mixing, CG and talking head comments on the legacy of the film (it’s only a year old) .

This lack of detailed special in-depth features does not take anything away from the show itself and while some things are brief and others pointless (who really will sit through stills galleries nowadays?), what is there extras-wise does the job. I suppose there is only so much you can say about the making of a hour and a half TV series from BBC4 and, indeed, this is all covered in the standard ‘making of’ documentaries we have seen before on disks like this.

Rounding things off are some generic bits such as crew commentaries, trailers, picture scenes and such and even a clever Easter Egg. And while it’s always good to have Mark Gatiss talking about his the passion for parlor horror, the main reason to hit the extras button is the ‘What Frightens You’ documentary which looks at primal scares and creepy things and is worth a watch. Great stuff for a night in on a soggy Halloween.


4 stars

Crooked House is out now.


4 out of 5