The Secret of Crickley Hall Movie Review
Written by John Colianni
DVD released by BBC America
Written and directed by Joe Ahearne
2013, Region 1, 175 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on October 8th, 2013
Suranne Jones as Eve Caleigh
Tom Ellis as Gabe Caleigh
Douglas Henshall as Augustus Cribben
David Warner as Percy Judd
Horror, arguably, is one of the most diversified genres when it comes to books, television, film and even video games. What has allowed this genre to thrive from the early days of black and white, silent cinema all the way through the '70s and '80s with DIY special effects is the ability for talented screenwriters, authors, directors and many others to constantly reinvent the way audiences experience stories and characters. Whether you're craving a minimalist thriller that is suspenseful or a completely over-the-top gore fest that will leave even the most strong-minded cringing at the screen, something can be found throughout the annals of horror. Even more impressive is when writers and a director come along and breathe new life into a film that would otherwise be super-saturated by jump scares and gore that ends up desensitizing rather than leaving a lasting impression. This is why I so deeply enjoyed this TV movie adaptation of James Herbet's bestselling novel The Secret of Crickley Hall.
Beginning a year after the disappearance of their son Cam, Gabe (Tom Ellis) and Eve (Suranne Jones) Caleigh, as well as their daughters Loren (Maisie Williams) and Cally (Pixie Davies) have decided to relocate from London to a mansion in the countryside known as Crickley Hall. A broken boiler and weary townsfolk are just the start of the issues that the family experience. Not before long, doors begin to move on their own and the silhouettes of ghostly children appear all about the house. Just when they seem like they had reached their breaking point, Eve has dreams and hears the voice of her missing son. Is the vanishing of their son somehow linked to the dark past that Crickley Hall and its former residents have been hiding all these years? Little do the Caleighs know of the secrets they are about to uncover.
The beauty of this film adaptation by director Joe Ahearne is how well the characters are developed. Having the luxury of being made for television, a nearly three-hour run time is used perfectly to have each main role and all of the supporting ones flushed out to fully engage the audience. No one actor steals the show and this is why the story transpires from start to finish so smoothly. The way that time moves back and forth from past to present blends a plethora of characters that easily leaves the audience yearning for the next piece of the plot's puzzle. Much to my surprise, the young actors stole the show in every way imaginable. Maisie Williams (that many will recognize from Game of Thrones), Pixie Davies, Iain De Caestecker and many others were the foundation of The Secret of Crickley Hall, which all other actors beautifully added. Combine all of this with a break from the usual running, screaming and stabbing that is replaced with gothic, mystery and intrigue that breaks up the monotony of horror that usually ends with someone wearing someone else's face.
If you have three hours to kill (of course you do, you sad bastard), spend it watching The Secret of Crickley Hall. Although adapted from James Herbert's bestselling novel, I don't have faith in the general public's ability to read words and form ideas with their imaginations. With fantastic acting and a plot that isn't about a bunch of teenagers or inept adults wandering around some old-as-balls house looking for ghosts, rather one about history and a plot that jumps between decades, you won't regret spend time with this instead. This is proof that there is still a place for haunting, character driven ghost stories that can compete with today's modern horror films.