Binge-r #83: Requiem + 6 Balloons
Streaming Service: Netflix
Availability: All six episodes now streaming
With a taste for haunted house excess and small town conspiracies, this juicily ripe British series manages to indulge both a supernatural mystery and a conspiracy thriller. There’s nothing subtle about Requiem, the story of a young woman trying to discover her own identity, but the craftsmanship is impressive, right down to the Foley team extracting every shiver of worn wood and creaking metal from an old door opening. The show begins with not one, but two, inexplicable suicides, framed by subterranean whispers and circuitry hum, and it’s the second, that of her mother, Janice (Joanna Scanlan), that leads the grieving Matilda Gray (Lydia Wilson) from London to the Welsh village of Penllynith, and a mystery involving a young girl who disappeared two decades prior.
Matilda, a gifted cellist, and her friend and pianist Harlan Fine (Joel Fry) start their enquiries at a funeral, and as well as Rose (Claire Rushbrook), the mother of the missing child Carys Howell, they soon encounter a manor house filled with nightmarish sounds, dreams of Carys’ imprisonment, a mute and wheelchair-bound observer, a creepy cellar, a spooky stranger, and fluttering bats; a shot of Matilda’s locket, which is half of a set, guarantees that the matching piece is part of the plot. It was something of a relief to have the manor house’s new master, Melbourne wine bar proprietor Nick Dean (Animal Kingdom’s James Frecheville) say very Australian things such as, “smashing avo is a fine art”.
The otherworldly menace, with its nods to the Hammer Horror tradition, is expertly curated by director Mahalia Belo, who not only jangles nerves but disorientates expectations with the camera – there are some gorgeous profile shots in close-up, landscape studies from above that suggest a malignant terrain, and great use of long lens to single out the jittery Matilda from her postcard-pretty surrounds. Lydia Wilson’s wide-eyed reaction shots, indicating both terror and obsessive enquiry, are deployed regularly. “Am I going crazy?” Matilda asks Harlan in just the second episode, which is indicative of how the plot doesn’t pause.
But Matilda is herself an unreliable guide, prone to panic and unreliable claims, and whenever the spirit’s wrath builds to a peak Requiem sidesteps into the palpably human conspiracy that surrounds Carys’ disappearance. Matilda has to question not only who she is, but what she knows about her mother, and by combining these strands of uncertainty you get a curiously effective hybrid. Your tolerance for horror’s havoc may determine how far you get into the six episodes, but if you surrender to the chilling atmosphere then the ludicrous edge can become altogether more intriguing.
>> Old Shows/New Seasons: Two Stan mainstays have just added new episodes. There’s the complete fourth season of the whimsical classical music comedy Mozart in the Jungle, whose previous season I covered last year [full review here], plus the third season of the New York power struggle Billions is unfurling week by week, following on from my piece of season two [full review here].
JUST ADDED MOVIES
6 Balloons (Netflix, 2018, 75 minutes): The cruel co-dependency of addiction bears brief but biting examination in this sibling drama about a control freak sister, Katie (Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson), who derails her own plans by trying to help relapsed brother, Seth (Dave Franco), with his heroin addiction. With Seth’s infant daughter Ella (Charlotte Carel) in tow, the pair’s long day’s journey into the Los Angeles night is filled with equivocation, blame and increasingly desperate need as withdrawal symptoms kick in. There’s a sense that Katie’s need to help her brother is twisted by Seth, although a scene in a nightmarish outdoor drug bazaar has a whiff of wide-eyed exploitation. The dynamic between the two comic actors is exemplary, and they let you see glimpses of a shared lifetime that permeates the rehab clinics and pharmacies. Writer/director Marja Lewis-Ryan leans towards diffused cinematography and moments of reverie, but the film might have benefited from a sharper, sterner gaze.
New on Netflix: Cate Blanchett’s international breakthrough, Elizabeth (1998, 123 minutes) set the tone for the modern historic drama, bringing The Godfather’s plot to 16th century England; serenely bombastic, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014, 168 minutes) stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain in a space exploration epic.
New on SBS On Demand: Argentina’s public and private crimes are interwoven in The Clan (2015, 104 minutes), the true story of a family whose covert trade is kidnapping, with the frightening kept connected to the domestic; expatriate Australian filmmaker Eron Sheean’s Errors of the Human Body (2012, 108 minutes) is a chilly update scientific discovery and personal stasis set at a German university.
New on Stan: Sofia Coppola’s feel for young women cornered by circumstance acquires a satiric sting in The Bling Ring (2013, 91 minutes), with Emma Watson as a self-obsessed L.A. student ransacking celebrity homes; if you’ve been thinking about Facebook, revisit David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s fictionalised account of the online behemoth’s birth with The Social Network (2010, 116 minutes).
>> Want BINGE-R sent to your inbox? Click here for the weekly e-mail.