‘I need you to keep an open mind over this,’ said a voiceover at the start of HIM. ‘Suspend your disbelief.’
Given that it’s an ITV thriller, I’d sort of taken that as read, to be honest. But it’s also fair warning that Paula Milne’s ‘domestic horror’ story is not quite your standard dose of 9pm murder and mayhem.
At its heart is a teenage loner – impressively played by newcomer Fionn Whitehead – who has become increasingly locked away from the outside world: he’s moody, taciturn and spends his days either smoking dope or staring at video games in a zombiefied stupor. So just like every other teenage boy in Britain, basically.
Except he’s not, really, because this kid (he’s never given a name) also has powers – a telekinetic gift that, in moments of stress or anger, tends to result in extreme havoc. Think a surlier, more violent, much hairier version of Matilda.
Unfortunately, stress and anger are his default positions since his parents (James Murray and the fabulous Katherine Kelly) divorced and started new lives with new partners (Lucy Liemann and Patrick Robinson). He’s also got a new baby brother – whose safety I rather fear for – and a teenage stepsister who stirs a whole lot of other feelings. I know – awks.
So far, HIM is an admirably restrained affair, favouring creeping unease over violent hysterics (a scene in which he – Him, whatever – watched an ultrasound film of his stepmum’s unborn twins moving about in utero was particularly sinister). By the end of the first episode, there’d been no tragedies a decent plasterer couldn’t fix – though the moment he made a toolbox full of blades hover over his stepdad’s head must have had Patrick Robinson doing a double-take to check he wasn’t back in Casualty.
Milne, whose previous successes include The Politician’s Wife / Husband, appears more interested in exploring the landscape of modern atomised families than aping the full-on horror of Carrie and The Omen, to which HIM’s premises obviously owes a debt. Unless, that is, everyone dies next week in a bloody frenzy of flying kitchen knives, in which case I’ll be slightly disappointed.
Andrew Marr’s Paperback Heroes
‘Why do the British so enjoy reading about a spot of murder?’ asked Andrew Marr in this witty history of the detective novel, from Conan Doyle to Ian Rankin.
Val McDermid, Anthony Horowitz and the late PD James were among those gathered in the drawing room to present their findings. Meanwhile Marr, with his journalist’s ear for language, (I loved his description of Sherlock Holmes as ‘a cocaine-powered Victorian drone’) proved he’s no mean storyteller himself.
Back for a second series, this old-school sitcom about a widow living with the bickering ghosts of ‘a dead husband, a dead lover and a dead vicar’ leans heavily on Sarah Alexander’s talent for doing cute and frazzled at the same time. John Hannah and Jo Joyner add to a strong cast but, with jokes about Action Man’s ‘missing winkle’ and a finale that involved Alexander gatecrashing a Neighbourhood Watch meeting in her vest and knickers, it’s definitely more Rentaghost than The Sixth Sense.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, October 20, 2016
(c) Waitrose Weekend