TV Viewpoint: Deadwater Fell and Hausen

A devastating housefire in an idyllic village raises questions over whodunnit

A BEARDED David Tennant can only mean one thing; murder is afoot! In Broadchurch he played a surly detective investigating the death of a young boy, in Criminal: UK he was a suave doctor being questioned over the murder of his step-daughter.

In Deadwater Fell, a new four-part mystery drama that started last Wednesday night on RTE One (having previously been shown last year on Channel 4), he again plays a doctor whose family befalls a terrible tragedy that there’s more to than meets the eye.

The first episode begins with a car flipping over after speeding through a bend, a scene that wasn’t returned to until later on in the drama; there was plenty more to be dealing with before that. Cut to an ambrosial Scottish village, summertime haze lazily shining on the charming bunting laid out in honour of a cycling tournament that whizzes by in a flash, followed by a charming bucolic fete.

The Good Fight’s Cush Jumbo is cheerful primary school teacher Jess, the best friend of colleague Kate, who’s the wife of bearded David Tennant. They have a few kids and step-kids between them; Jess’s partner Steve is a jolly village bobby, and the two families get on famously together.

Beware the Bearded Tennant

Little incidents rear their heads to indicate that all is not quite as rosy as the soft-focus camera work will have you think. Jess is Kate’s confidante – flashbacks tell us that Kate has a number of mental health issues, and may be responsible for the car crash that occurred as a flashback at the start of the show.

When an inferno sweeps the house of the doctor, his wife and their kids at the end of an otherwise perfect day, after the shock has settled reluctant fingers start pointing in the obvious direction.

Indeed, it is revealed that the terrible fire at the crux of the plot was not an accident. There’s evidence that the victims were sedated and there was a lock bolted to the door of the girls’ bedroom. Dr. David Tennant is the only survivor, and initial chief suspect, but further flashbacks and CCTV evidence thicken the plot.

For all the drama involved it was a surprisingly slow-moving first episode that let my attention wander more than once. Although there was plenty set up for the remaining three episodes, it could have ended on a more compelling cliff-hanger to indicate that the pace will quicken as the series continues.

With echoes of White House Farm (the unsettling crime drama that depicted the horrifying real events of a massacre in a farm house and the framing of one of the victims as the killer), Deadwater Fell may be an interesting study in revealing that all is not necessarily as it seems, behind closed doors.

What do you think of, when you think of the exact opposite of a lovely country village bathed in sunshine? Is it a dilapidated cluster of high-rise apartments steeped in permanent fog, flurescent lighting blinking, heating on the blink, suspicious characters rummaging through overflowing rubbish bins?

That pretty much describes the setting of Hausen, a new German horror drama that started on Sky Atlantic last Thursday. It’s relentlessly grim, very slow, with long periods devoid of dialogue, ostensibly to build the atmosphere.

Juri has just moved in with his father, who is to begin the role of building manager. There are problems to be solved from the start; the heating system has gone kaput and residents are dealing with it in their own unique ways.

Juri and pals in Hausen

Juri’s dad (as yet unnamed) encounters a young woman and her baby, and later her Kurt Cobain lookalike partner, who appears to have a dependency on some strange drug, an addiction shared by some other inhabitants of the building.

When the building supervisor bleeds the radiator a disgusting gunk emerges, and then shows up in other nooks and crannies of the building, which is probably very, very haunted by an extremely sinister entity.

If you like cerebral horror this will appeal, but I don’t think I will be able to bear six more episodes of eye-sight straining murky lighting, not to mention the unseemly goings on, both supernatural and of human doing. Avoid if you’re of a queasy disposition (and watch David Tennant being sneaky in the sunlight instead).

  • First Published in The Tuam Herald on 07 04 21

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