CALEDONIA

PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Marshall

VOD REVIEW: CALEDONIA / CERT: N/A / DIRECTOR: AMY HOFF / SCREENPLAY: AMY HOFF / STARRING: VHARRI LAVERY, ALASDAIR REAVEY, CHRISTOPHER STANLEY, AMY HOFF, STEPHEN BELL, JOSEPH BELL, NICHOLAS STANLEY, ELLIOT MCGONIGLE, JAN VAN DER BLACK / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Adapted from the first of a series of (as yet) unpublished urban fantasy novels by folklorist and monster expert Amy Hoff and produced by Cult Classic, a Glasgow theatre troupe “held together by pretty boys and duct tape” who have staged adaptations of Good Omens and Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Caledonia is a web series combining the grimy underworlds of Taggart’s Glasgow or Rebus’ Edinburgh with the mythic overtones of shows like Grimm, Lost Girl or Supernatural.

After a messy divorce that has left her directionless and heartbroken, Inspector Leah Bishop is assigned to the Glasgow branch of Interpol, where she’s dropped into an unseen world of the supernatural and partnered with taciturn and Victorian-garbed selkie Dorian Grey (not that one, although he was the inspiration). The Fae are dealing with their very first serial killer, and to investigate that most human of crimes, they need a human perspective.

Leah and Dorian search for clues to the killer’s identity within the city’s Fae community, a backstreet netherworld of drug-addicted faeries, age-long feuds, delinquent guardians and old magic. Along the way, they are aided by Dorian’s brother Magnus, who first appears in slow motion, swishing his hair like a L’Oréal advert and immediately getting Leah a little hot under the collar of her sensible shirt; branch chief Benandonner, a giant who once battled Fionn mac Cumhaill; Milo, a ceasg (merman) forensic scientist and his assistant Geoffrey; and Desdemona, an elegant and sinister baobhan sith (think vampire). Despite the series’ bleak outlook, it still finds space for humour, be it visual (a time-displaced Jacobite highlander attempting to puzzle out a can of Irn Bru) or verbal (“The sun is a myth here”), temporarily lightening the tone of a story otherwise as grim and grey as the Glaswegian sky it plays out beneath.

Being a theatre company, the group’s inexperience of filmmaking is somewhat apparent in harsh lighting, echoing sound, out of synch ADR and static camera shots, but unlike a lot of fantasy, Caledonia isn’t about flashy effects or spectacular visuals; its most important aspects are the story and the development of the characters that drive it, both of which shine through the ropey production values. While few people are as familiar with the lore of selkies as they are with that of, say, vampires, werewolves or zombies, the rules governing the behaviour of shapeshifting seal-men summoned from the ocean by tears shed of a broken heart are dropped in at natural points, with the occasional confrontational situation hinting at the true extent of their power. Novel excerpts and journal entries supplement the main plotline, giving greater insight into characters’ backgrounds, while even an anonymous corpse is granted characterisation as Leah idly speculates about the girl’s life so brutally and pointlessly cut short (“Maybe a boy once kissed you in the rain”).

Caledonia is a murder mystery, and also a tale of legendary creatures bound to the everyday drudgery of the modern world. Lost loves and doomed romance; past regrets and humble atonement; unfocused anger and burning vengeance – the fusion of the mythical and the mundane is seamless. It may be flawed, but for a series put together with little technical expertise and zero budget it’s not half bad, and with its forthcoming second season being made with the backing of professional independent film production outfit TACHY Studios, it will likely continue to improve.


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Comments  

 
0 #1 Heide 2014-08-27 10:40
Love this show! Can't wait for Season 2 :D
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