The Secret of Crickley Hall (2012) – reviewed by George

Anita was wonderful and timely with her Halloween reviews, and I am late with the only one I have. But this BBC miniseries should be more widely known, and I run late a lot, so here goes.
In 2006 Eve and Gabe (Suranne Jones and Tom Ellis) are a married couple whose five-year-old son Cameron has been kidnapped. It has been about a year, and everyone wants Eve to stop grieving and pay more attention to her two daughters, which of course is the major tragedy of losing one child – you tend to ignore the ones you still have. Gabe is very patient, but is becoming less so. He decides to give Eve and the girls, Loren and Cally (Maisie Williams and Pixie Davies) a gift of space from their everyday life. He rents an old home which was used as an orphanage-school in the 30s and 40s, Crickley Hall, for a prolonged vacation (he will still have to work, but will be at the Hall every night).
Back in the day (1943) the head of the orphanage, Augustus Cribben (Douglas Henshall) and his sister Magda (Sarah Smart) were nobody you would want around children, and Augustus (along with some others) still haunts the Hall. Gus believed that children are of the devil and must be punished for the slightest infraction, and then he got hold of a new child, the youngest-looking boy in the place, Stefan Rosenbaum (Kian Parsiani), who was rescued from Germany by Allied soldiers. Stefan was Jewish and Gus taught all manner of lies about the Jews, so Stephan had to pay for imaginary crimes and misdemeanors. None of this was known at the time, nor indeed is suspected today, but we see it all in flashback. Like many other cruel people who seem to flourish, Gus had an enabler and apologist, the local church leader, Reverend Horace (Craig Parkinson). Magda saved all her sympathy for Gus, but a new teacher was hired, Nancy Linnet (Olivia Cooke), who was incensed at the canings and the lies about Jewish people. Nancy tried to change the situation, but Gus was clearly beyond change in his fixations.
Crickley has a kind old caretaker, Percy Judd (David Warner), who takes a liking to Loren and Cally, but is very afraid for children to be at the haunted Hall. He tries to get Gabe to leave, but then we see Percy as a young man (Iain de Caestecker) in love with Nancy, who tries to persuade her to leave the Hall.
Then Gus’s ghost begins to cane Loren, and Percy too. And Gabe learns that Stefan and Maurice Stafford (Bill Milner), his student bully (a teenager who was the special pet of Magda), and most of the other children, all drowned when heavy rain created a flood which entered Crickley through the cistern in the basement.
Eve revives enough to consult a local medium, Lili Peel (Susan Lynch), and Gabe gets a paranormal expert Gordon Pyke (Donald Sumpter) to visit. Neither is very effective, but for different reasons. Now Loren and Cally are in grave danger at a time when Gabe is in London and Eve is absorbed in grief for Cameron.
Written by James Herbert, and adapted and directed by Joe Ahearne, this is a particularly effective ghost story, with good surprises. And you may recognize various actors: Tom Ellis is currently “Lucifer” on Fox, and played Miranda’s unaware love Gary on “Miranda”, one of my favorite sit-coms ever. David Warner has been in so much over his career, but who could forget him as Jack the Ripper in”Time After Time”? Iain de Caestecker is Fitz on “Agents of S.H.I.E.l.D”. And Maisie Williams plays Arya on “Game of Thrones” alongside Donald Sumpter as Maester Lubin. Craig Parkinson plays Douglas on “Indian Summers”. And Douglas Henshall was the original lead, Prof. Cutter, in the British version of “Primeval” (not the Canadian remake).

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