After a meandering couple of opening episodes, the third part of ITV1’s supernatural drama really begins to deliver frights and further the mystery surrounding the titular house.
The mystery is firmly routed in the death of the young girl, Alice, who lived in the house during the 1960s. The episode opens with her body being found, before jumping to the present day where the girl’s mother Ruth, performed somewhere between caring and scaring by Anne Reid (Dinnerladies), is now a home help at Marchlands for a couple with a new born baby girl – also by the name of Alice…
Jump to the ’80s and we have the Maynard clan with their ‘sickly’ girl, Amy. The girl’s father Eddie (Ashes To Ashes star Dean Andrews), is torn between his wife’s factual determination in helping their daughter’s mental issues and his own doubts about her ailments.
Alex Kingston’s role as Helen is unsympathetic and never more so when she tells her husband to “get a grip” after he asks, “What if ghosts are real?”. It’s a welcome move to have a mother so resolutely having faith in the “real” whilst the hubby supports the supernatural; all along stating, in somewhat disbelief, that he is “normal”.
Andrews really does demonstrate what a fine actor he can be, showing fatherly concern for his daughter Amy while her problems are yet to be defined. Eddie starts to consider Amy’s belief that she has a dead friend, Alice, in the house. His encroaching curiosity and fear is expertly realised.
The creep-o-meter bungs into action during a conversation between father and daughter where her testimony convinces him of Alice’s existence. Genuine shivers are felt when Amy vividly describes the “ghost”, leaving her father to ask: “Is she here now?” This sparks his own investigation and some very effective, and gripping, scenes with Andrews alone, looking for Alice.
There’s more eeriness to be found in the physical manifestations of Alice and her house (not to mention her “appearances”). The Marchlands of 2010 – with Nisha (Shelley Conn), partner Mark (Elliot Cowan) and their new baby Alice – is positively aggressive, featuring a terrifying bath scene which will have every parent in the country letting their babies be dirty for a while.
We do have one final point, however, and it’s really the only negative about the episode. A Rubik’s Cube in 1987? Really? If there was a lazier, not to mention incorrect, way to state “THIS IS THE EIGHTIES” than the Crossroads clips and Alex Kingston’s fondness for dungarees then this was it. Nobody, and we mean nobody, was still playing with them after 1983 let alone ’87. Tut tut!
Other than that minor blip, Marchlands is kicking into a gear that didn’t seem possible in its previous instalments – and much appreciated it is too. Best not to watch alone though, the scares are coming thick and fast. Especially the very end: it will… creep… you… OUT.
Airs at 9pm on Thursday 17th February 2011 on ITV1.