Psychoville episode 5 review

Move over Chucky. There's an even scarier doll in town…

Warning: contains some plot spoilers

How do you up the ante on last week’s ambitious episode? Simple. You throw in a musical number. When the waxwork serial killers began to dance to a song that could have come straight out of Sweeney Todd, I literally had to shut my gaping mouth to stop it from dribbling. It marked another outstanding moment for the consistently brilliant Psychoville, having now firmly established itself as at least as good as the first couple of series of The League Of Gentlemen and certainly better than its third series and associated feature film.

Throwing in curveballs like this are now becoming second nature to fans of the show following last week’s ode to Hitchcock and while the series returned to its conventional format this week, the musical interlude was further evidence of the ambition of this project. Serial killer David made his way to a waxwork museum of all his murderous heroes to bump off his latest victim and after his delusional state led him to taking some advice on the best methods to carry out his murders, the waxworks burst into a song and dance routine. Genius. 

The visual stylings of the series are something I’ve touched upon before but this episode really showcased all the elements that I believe set it apart from anything currently airing on terrestrial television. The lighting, costumes, set designs, camera angles and framing all came together to bring some of the greatest set pieces of Psychoville so far and upped the horror content to a genuinely scary level.

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The main reason behind this increase in the creep factor was the focus on ‘possessed’ doll Freddie Fruitcake (played by himself, according to the credits) and his mother, Joy. Dawn French has done murder and mild terror before in her own series, Murder Most Horrid, but I doubt anyone realised just how great a dramatic actress she was before seeing her in Psychoville. If there were still any naysayers, this episode should have put paid to that. She was memorising here as her troubled relationship with husband George and her disturbing one with Freddie took centre stage.

We learned that George is actually having an affair with Joy’s colleague, Nicola, a neat twist bringing a seemingly inconsequential character into play at this stage. We also learned that little Freddie is one badass baby doll, attacking Joy in what was a truly brilliantly executed piece of television.

From the moment Freddie’s ‘Mama’ was heard on the intercom to the final altercation on the staircase, this was every bit as frightening as many a Hollywood horror/thriller. French was superb throughout with a final look to camera suggesting this is far from over and I’m not yet fully convinced that Freddie’s personality isn’t completely his own.

The central blackmailing/whodunnit plot gathered a bit of steam too as further envelopes were posted to our main protagonists, each containing a key. It was Mr Jolly (now clearly established as central to the mystery) who filled us in on the details via his conversations with hook-handed Mr Jelly. We were told of the name of the woman mentioned in the blackmail notes (Nurse Kenchington) and of the horrendous experiments she carried out on her patients, giving us more insight into the other main characters. With two episodes to go, I think it was wise to drip feed more information like that at this stage and I dare say next week’s episode will reveal much more before the final piece of the puzzle is in place.

Blind Oscar continued his quest to retrieve Snappy the Crocodile from deepest, darkest Dudley where the conjoined Crabtree sisters were also lying in wait. Things didn’t end well for Oscar as Tea Leaf and the sisters headed on their way to see the mysterious blackmailer who has obviously picked it up off the boy since we last saw him leaving the house with it in his backpack. There were some great jokes within this segment, most notably the family’s questions about the Crabtree’s more intimate moments and Oscar’s questioning of the boy about Snappy’s whereabouts. Who’d have thought you could get such big laughs from a scene featuring two locked doors, a blind man and a young boy.

The only duff point of the episode came in the rather static plot revolving around dwarf Robert and his ladylove Debbie. His powers were put to mild use this week and this stalled the episode somewhat when on screen. However, I’ve little doubt that his tale will be all-important come the final minutes of this series.

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With a hell of a lot of dramatic storyline to get through this week, it’s a wonder the boys found time for comedy but, once again, the funniest moments were of the broad strokes variety. Jokes about Charlie Dimmock and penis sizes were woven into scenes that were otherwise dark and brooding and a brilliant aside from Joy when attacked by Freddie (“I think you need some Calpol.”) was wonderfully done.

It was the clowns that stole the show once more, though, with a breakdown maintenance job on Jolly’s car eliciting big laughs from me. The sounds matched the visuals perfectly and it proved another triumph for a show I really can’t praise enough.

Just two episodes to go and plenty more revelations to come, Thursdays can’t come round soon enough for me. I’m making just one prediction for next week: Joy will have her revenge.

Check out our review of episode 4 here.