Requiem – Episode 1: Matilda
Starring: Lydia Wilson, Joel Fry, Joana Scanlan, James Frecheville
Director: Mahalia Belo
Writers: Kris Mrksa
Reviewed by Sidney Morgan
Ever since American Horror Story, there’s been a resurgence of horror shows on television, with each experiencing a various degree of success. There have been all sorts of stories, some of which featured killers (Scream, Scream Queens, Dead of Summer) while others featured monsters (The Walking Dead, Supernatural, The Exorcist). In fighting for viewers, writers and directors differentiated their shows from the others by adding a bit of originality, whether it be via comedy mixed in, or political commentary, or even monsters falling in love with other monsters. But stories of hauntings, well, we don’t see those as much. It could be that they’re less popular (although The Conjuring would indicate otherwise). Maybe it’s because hauntings tend to be slow to develop, alienating viewers early on. However, we just may be in for an exception.
Requiem, a new supernatural thriller from the BBC and Netflix doesn’t waste any time to get going. It starts with Ewan Dean (Nick Hobbs), an old man who enters his big mansion, seemingly living alone. A few odd occurrences later, he’s on the roof and jumps to his death. Meanwhile in London, Janice Gray (Joanna Scanlan) is in her house. She’s getting ready to go to a concert, featuring a world-renowned cellist, her daughter Matilda (Lydia Wilson, Star Trek Beyond, Ripper Street). But, like the old man, she begins to hear things. Next thing you know, she also ends up taking her life. And in a pretty brutal and violent way. And this happens all within the first fifteen minutes of the episode! But, it’s necessary as it sets up the central mystery.
As Matilda looks through her mother’s belongings, she discovers a box which contains pictures and articles about a girl who went missing in 1994. Unable to get this out of her head, Matilda convinces her friend and concert accompanist Hal (Joel Fry, Game of Thrones) to head to the Welsh village of Penllynith (the place the girl went missing). And though it seems contrived, they meet Nick Dean (James Frecheville, The Stanford Prison Experiment), who’s inherited the mansion and offers them to stay with him. It’s the perfect setting for the story!
As the lead, Lydia Wilson does an excellent job of conveying her curiosity and her fears as she looks into her past. She’s not overly dramatic or hysterical but rather calm and driven, reflective of the mood of the show. Surrounding her so far is a cast of good supporting characters. Hal stands by Matilda unconditionally in her quest, even if it means losing some venues. Their relationship lets us see a more vulnerable and caring Matilda. Janice, the loving mom, has so many secrets. I can only hope she’ll feature in subsequent episodes, even if only in flashbacks. And although he only appears at the end of the episode, there’s Nick, who offers lodgings to two complete strangers. It’s a little contrived as Matilda needs to be in that mansion. Something about Nick seems just a little suspicious.
Requiem does an exceptional job with setting and mood, both important to create suspense. The mansion is big and old, yet the rooms and hallways feel strangely claustrophobic. The property is surrounded by large hedges and trees, casting shadows and hiding the mansion and its secrets. And that’s only the beginning. There are also banging doors, whispers out of nowhere, broken mirrors, fleeting apparitions, and cryptic dreams (or are they memories…), all perfect ingredients for creating and maintaining fear and suspense. Requiem isn’t subtle about using these typical horror elements, but it works. The acting, the story, the mood and the setting are balanced and manage to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Verdict: A definite watch. Matilda is a great start to Requiem. It lays the groundwork for a compelling mystery where two seemingly unrelated deaths somehow involve Matilda. And the addition of the supernatural elements seem to point to a restless soul, angry at something that happened in the past. Finally, include great settings, excellent use of filters and colours and you have the recipe for a story that will hook you.