Requiem Episode 1 Review

With spoilers, here's our review of the first episode of Requiem...

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

Requiem Episode 1

In these days of boundless choice when it comes to entertainment, sometimes I find I don’t know what I want to watch next. From the latest cinematic offerings to the range of options with each streaming service: what is it that will really reward my attention? Realism or escapism? Drama or comedy? I’ve had a lacklustre January, entertainment-wise, moving from one thing to another and never really getting sucked in to a story. But then I watched the first episode of Requiem and realised that what I was after was a dose of old-school unashamed horror.

Requiem has everything that reminds me of those films of the past that got right under my skin and stayed there: The Turn Of The Screw came to mind, as did 1974 horror film Symptoms, and Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others. With everything pulled into tight focus, using the smallest details to convey dread, they made for the kind of viewing experience that set my nerves on edge and drew me in with their hints of personal trauma manifesting in terrible ways.

A mixture of crime, the supernatural, and family drama, Requiem weaves together these elements extremely effectively. We follow the realisation of rising star cellist Matilda Gray that her mother was involved with the disappearance of a young girl from a town in Wales in the 1990s. Matilda, played by Lydia Wilson, decides to try being a detective, and drags along her literal accompanist Hal (Joel Fry) to the town.

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A lot of the early build-up hinges on finding Matilda interesting, and I suspect she might be a character that you either love or hate, but she really worked for me; she’s spiky, driven, given to one-night stands yet capable of deep affection for those close to her, private, obsessive, and a very good liar. In short, she’s got a real depth that Lydia Wilson brings out, as much in the way she tackles the silences as the conversation. It’s a great performance so far, helped along by an equally strong turn from Joanna Scanlan as her mother. Between the two of them, they established a sense of a deep mother/daughter bond that contained love, reliance, and exasperation.

Of course, all was not what it seemed in this relationship, as it won’t be in any of the relationships that are built in this series, I’m guessing. The reveal at the end of the first episode was not very surprising, but I got the feeling it wasn’t meant to be. Requiem seems to be all about establishing and building on mood. By letting us in early on with Matilda’s unspoken suspicions, we’ve been drawn into the intrigue rather than given a huge shock, and I think that might well pay dividends later. We’re on a journey with Matilda – we’re not watching her from afar.

But enough of this emotional stuff: let’s get back to the horror. It’s all very recognisable but like all the best magic tricks, it really doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen them as long as they’re done really well. A spooky house, shattered mirrors, flickering lights, the glimpse of a figure in black in the corner of the screen: all of these are used with a series of sound effects that tie the mournful sound of the cello to whisperings and sudden cracks and bangs. There’s really nothing subtle about it in Requiem. It’s determined to put you on edge. I have to admit at points I did wonder if it was about to overdo it, but instead I found myself admiring it for deciding to go for it, no holds barred.

So there are two winning elements to Requiem so far: the outright commitment to being a horror story in an old-fashioned sense, mingled with the personal journey of self-discovery we’re getting in a very interesting lead character. But what about the the detective story?

So far, I’m less persuaded by that. A few old photos and clippings have led Matilda to a town, a house, and a basement filled with more clippings and tape recordings. It hangs together in a workmanlike way, and I’m wondering if, at this point, it will turn out that Matilda the Detective will start to fade into the background since the work of getting her in the right place at the right time has been done. I hope not. I like the idea of her and her accompanist sniffing around for clues and coming to some satisfying conclusions that don’t rely purely on the supernatural without taking the time to make a lot of sense.

But it’s great to be interested enough in a series to care about where it’s going to go, and I get the feeling there’s plenty of room in Requiem for me to be surprised without sacrificing that warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia for the horror of the past that it so obviously draws upon. Bring on more of the old tricks of suspense and the supernatural. Bangs, slams, broken mirrors and creeping dread are a great choice for this long, cold January.

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