DVD REVIEW: REMEMBER ME / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ASHLEY PEARCE / SCREENPLAY: GWYNETH HUGHES / STARRING: MICHAEL PALIN, MARK ADDY, JODIE COMER, JULIA SAWALHA, SHEILA HANCOCK, MINA ANWAR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The BBC appear to be establishing a tradition for spooky three-part Sunday night supernatural dramas, with 2012’s Secret of Crickley Hall, adapted from the novel by the late James Herbert, followed by this year’s brooding and oppressive Remember Me, an original story from Gwyneth Hughes. Cold winter nights are made for shows like these and Remember Me is a much darker and less predictable affair than Crickley Hall; it’s an out-and-out unashamed ghost story which flirts with themes and images reminiscent of the likes of The Ring and The Woman nn Black.
Michael Palin, in his first starring dramatic role in over two decades, plays frail-but-cheery eighty-something Tom Parfitt, who willingly surrenders his independence and moves into a care home. But before he can settle into his new home - Tom’s travelling light with nothing but an empty suitcase to show for his life and times - the spooky stuff starts happening. A social worker plunges to a grisly death from the window of Tom’s room, and troubled young care assistant Hannah (Cromer) finds herself fascinated by Tom and intrigued by the mystery of his long and tragic life. Crumpled, disillusioned police detective Rob Fairholme (Addy) is also drawn into Tom’s world of lost love and betrayal - and the unearthly spectral figure from Tom’s past who just won’t or can’t let him go.
Filmed in and around Huddersfield and Scarborough (the song ‘Scarborough Fair’ is integral to the storyline), the grim North has rarely looked grimmer than in Remember Me. The skies are constantly gloomy and thundery, the towns and villages are cold and grey, the countryside is barren and windswept; there‘s a discomfiting touch of the apocalyptic about the show‘s visual aesthetic. Yet it’s a perfect and unsettling backdrop to a story which unfolds at a measured and stately pace, a story which sets out its stall almost immediately and without pretension. This is an out-and-out ghost story and there’s no attempt made to rationalise what’s happening as anything other than supernatural. Tom himself, as we discover in the third and final episode, is trapped in and by his own past, and the eerie, ethereal figure which we first see, hair-raisingly, washed up on a beach in the first episode and which crops up to spook us throughout the series, is inexorably tied to the old man down through the ages.
Ultimately Remember Me wears its influences proudly and shamelessly on its sleeve. Its carefully-staged scares – running water, banging doors, creaking floors, ghostly figures in photographs – will be familiar friends to the horror literate but they’re largely new and untested territory for a sleepy Sunday night prime time BBC TV audience. If nothing else, Remember Me might itself be remembered as one of the shows which helped to reintroduce good old-fashioned shiver-me-timbers horror to mainstream British telly. And that, surely, can only be a very good thing indeed…
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