Mark Gatiss’ adaptation of the M R James short story, which he also directs, is perhaps best suited for one of the days this week when the winds have been howling around the chimneys and it should feel safer to stay indoors.
Sacha Dhawan – recently Waris Hussein in Gatiss’ Doctor Who docudrama, An Adventure in Space and Time – is the focal point of the tale, ably assisted by a strong collection of character actors, including Louise Jameson, Roy Barraclough and David Ryall. Gatiss’ love of the horror genre is apparent, with tips of the directorial hat to some of the classics, and he brings the necessary credible performances from his actors to counterpoint the spooky goings on – as well as creating some strong set pieces.
It’s a pretty faithful adaptation of James’ story (which can be read online if you’ve not yet taken the plunge and read James’ work – watch Gatiss’ accompanying documentary for a good introduction), with Gatiss filling in some of the gaps which James leaves in the narrative (as well as neat touches such as Dr Rant’s coat of arms) – and adding a little twist to the ending, which is completely in keeping with the story that’s unfolded. Chances are that you’ll get a few flutters up the spine…
Verdict: It’s melodramatic, of course – but then, so is the text on which it’s based. A neat little nugget of ghostliness for Christmas. 7/10