Thursday, 7 August 2014

Beneath the Veil written by Kymberly Ashman and directed by Darren Gross, David Darlington & Jim Person

What's it about: Alfie Chapman and Emma Finney, a young English couple, are on a road trip, travelling across America. When their car breaks down, they find themselves having to stay overnight in the small town of Collinsport. And on that night, people start dying. As Alfie and Emma become acquainted with the residents, they discover that there's more to the sleepy little town of Collinsport than they first thought. But will they discover the truth behind the murders before they become the next victims?

Holidaying Couple: Do you know I am not sure that Alfie and Emma are entirely likeable. I found them a little too smug and full of themselves in their early scenes and found myself looking forward to the moment when they felt out of their depth and dropped the loftiness. There's nothing worse than foreigners abroad taking the piss out of the place they are staying. As soon as I heard that they were in to serial killers my spidey senses started tingling...I had the feeling that they were going to get up close and personal with the very thing that the pair of them obsesses about. I have a friend who has a similar interest in serial murderers...perhaps I should give her this story as precautionary tale. Making jokes about never being able to leave the town...they are just asking for trouble. Alfie proves himself to be insensitive as well as mildly racist, making an extreme point about Emma wishing her ex boyfriend dead knowing full well that he committed suicide since then. Wow, what a keeper. Given the degree of jealousy that he shows in this story it is hardly a surprise that Alfie turned out to be Stuart's killer...but it is very satisfying to hear him admit it all the same. After he admits his killing spree in Collinsport I could see him and Danielle as some kind of Myra Hindly and Ian Brady style couple, travelling from town to town on a killing spree.

Standout Performance: I think I preferred Marie Wallace's performance before she was outed as Danielle because it was much more subtly manipulative. Once she is out of the closet she is in full on loony seductress mode albeit with a wizened gravelly voice. I love a panto villainess as much as the next person but a lot of the subtleties go missing with the transition.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'People are complicated, Alfie...'
'I want to find out what it's like to die.'
'You do not ask if it is right or wrong. White or black. You ask why...'
'You're the one in love with a man who is more fascinated by a rotting corpse than his own woman!'

Great Ideas: Opening with a grisly murder in a sanatorium, Beneath the Veil sure knows how to get your attention from the off. The music that Alfie is listening to on the radio sounds like the suspiciously cheesy Creme Brulee tracks from The League of Gentlemen. Beneath the Veil is a very clever introduction to Collinsport for anybody who is completely unfamiliar with the TV series (and given the Tony and Cassandra stories haven't touched on the place yet, despite both characters back story in the town) because you experience the place afresh with Alfie and Emma. They are excited at the prospect of curses, murders and creepy locals but clearly have no idea how in over their heads they are about to get. Imagine travelling across America looking for towns and locations where people have been murdered? What a feverish idea of a holiday. It is an uncomfortable question to ask but are we all capable of murder if the motive was strong enough? I would say yes but it would have to be a so strong as to bypass most people's safeguards for performing such an extreme act. When we have a moment of weakness and wish somebody dead is it a genuine desire or simply an extreme reaction to a stressful moment? Eve is a subtly manipulative character, preying on Alfie and Emma's fears and doubts about each other and their relationship, exacerbating them. Studying crime scenes and visiting the site of a murder that features the blood of somebody you actually knew are two very different things. Suddenly it's personal. This story asks questions about what happens to your spirit once you die - a commonly pondered idea that has so many potential answers. I guess when you witness a murder and see the transition of a functioning person to a dead shell it really drives you to understand the truth of the matter. There is a wonderfully uncomfortable moment when Alfie and Emma are doing their superior, illiberal spiel and the latter starts having a choking fit. Uncomfortable because you start to wonder if they deserve it. Alfie's obsession with finding out what it is like to die is what leads them to setting up a oujia board, something he did when he was younger which led to him seeing a spirit in the room. Since being released in The House By the Sea, the spirit is wandering, murdering, waiting... Eve turns out to be possessed by Danielle hardly a surprise given her manipulative nature throughout the tale. Danielle enjoys killing men because she finds it empowering. There's not always a motive to kill...some people just love it.

Audio Landscape: Clock ticking, squeaking door, thunder, rain lashing, scribbling, pub atmosphere, seagulls, a car horn blaring, crickets, police siren, wind, breaths snuffing out candles, whispering voices, glass scraping on board.

Standout Scene: The terrific surprise when you realise that this story segues into The House By the Sea. I was literally clapping with delight. 

Result: 'Would you like to see beneath the veil?' A smart piece that asks questions about murder, jealousy and life after death that is slightly hampered by two leads that display enough smugness for you to want them to reach an uncomfortable end. I didn't find either Alfie or Emma especially affable and so I couldn't really sympathise with their plight when old woman Evans started to pressing their buttons and exploiting the flaws in their relationship. Kymberly Ashman's script however deserves a great deal of kudos, for not only straying into some psychologically uncomfortable areas and pondering on some of the darker aspects of humanity but also giving the listener a great deal to ponder on once the story is over. The direction is strong too, providing some chilling moments and atmospheric sound effects. As a package it is a very satisfying story and you might even say that Alfie and Emma are deliberately ill-characterised so you are forced into the disquieting position of wanting unpleasant things to happen to them. There might be an element of that but that doesn't stop them from being a bothersome pair; ill-mannered, jealous and with some pretty unusual fixations. I certainly wouldn't want to spend any more time in their company as they are portrayed at the beginning of this tale and fortunately they undergo quite the transition before the end. A huge plus is how this story dovetails into another of the Dark Shadows entries and the extra dimensions it gives that. All told, this is another confident and creepy story and I would recommend it to anybody looking to push the boundaries a bit. The open ending suggests more horror to come: 8/10

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