tue 20/08/2019

Black Lake, Series 2 Finale, BBC Four review - Swedish chiller fails to thrill | reviews, news & interviews

Black Lake, Series 2 Finale, BBC Four review - Swedish chiller fails to thrill

Black Lake, Series 2 Finale, BBC Four review - Swedish chiller fails to thrill

After an intriguing start, spooky sequel goes nowhere fast

Nightmare scenario: Johan (Filip Berg) and Uno (André Eriksen)

A bunch of young-ish people stuck in a rambling house in the middle of nowhere, a hatchet-faced senior citizen guarding a hoard of murky secrets, assorted missing persons, a derelict sanatorium, lots of creepy noises and no telephones… hang on, isn’t that exactly the same formula as in the first series of Black Lake? The sense of deja vu in this second season was further enhanced by the presence of Johan (Filip Berg), the arrogant young businessman who was planning to buy the haunted ski resort in series one.

The reason Johan has managed to return from the dead is that this is a prequel, and kicked off when Johan, having been busted for cocaine possession, was sent to the remote island of Kallskär for a spell in a rehab centre in lieu of going to jail. This spartan establishment was run by bearded, bullish Uno (André Eriksen), a Foreign Legion veteran fond of giving macho pep-talks about peer pressure and facing your inner demons before sending his clientele out for runs round his assault course, nicknamed “The Killer”. Supposedly some sort of therapist, he was in fact a bullying, power-mad narcissist.  

Uno's thuggish regime might have been okay for a bunch of trainee paratroopers, but hardly seemed appropriate for such fragile characters as Minnie (Hedda Stiernstedt, pictured right), a young mother with a daughter in care, trying to stay off drugs but still suffering from hallucinations, or Oscar (Daniel Larsson), a panicky-looking bearded chap on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Still, Minnie’s condition was useful for dramatic purposes. She could experience suddenly-slamming doors, eerie materialisations of young children, a corpse in the water or a bedroom wall that pulsated eerily and we couldn’t tell whether it was reality, demonic possession or just Minnie’s disturbed mind at play.

As with the first series, this one worked better during the earlier episodes, where everything remained possible and the writers hadn’t yet been forced to reach conclusions or explain how or why. Wide-screen vistas of rugged coastline and ocean helped crank up the atmosphere, along with Simon Kölle’s naggingly strange music. In finest Agatha – or perhaps Agnetha – Christie fashion, almost everybody had something to hide, and not just the fact that everyone was sleeping with almost everyone else.

Uno’s real name was Erik, and he’d been investigated by the police a year earlier following the disappearance of another of his customers, Josefine (luckily for him the cops hadn’t heard about his financial shenanigans). Not only had she disappeared, but so had her young daughter Elsa. Josefine was the only person who’d ever been nice to crazy Oscar, so her vanishing was driving him even more nuts. Meanwhile, some blighter had hit Amina (Bahar Pars) over the head with a shovel and dumped her in the basement of the old cholera hospital.

It was the morbid crone Gittan (Anja Landgre, pictured left) who knew where at least some of the bodies were buried. She even had a little map to prove it. Whenever the show needed to crank up the spine-chiller factor a bit, they got Gittan to come lurching in, with a face like a wet December evening in Scunthorpe, and say “you must leave the island immediately” or “the island has always demanded blood” or “it always ends badly” or “there are powers greater than me”. Aye, we’re all doomed.

Much was made in the last two episodes of the sinister history of Gittan’s family, the Manheims, who had owned Kallskär for 300 years. Evidently grandad was an utter bastard, and the pile of skeletons in the basement was his handiwork. He fled to the USSR because he greatly admired Stalin, but the feeling wasn’t mutual and the Great Dictator sent him to the Siberian gulag.

There could have been the seeds of an altogether bigger and bolder thriller in all this, but in the end all the murky historical stuff was just background noise. The eventual solution was mildly surprising but not at all convincing, and gave off a strong whiff of “quick, pick a character at random and we’ll pin it all on them”. I bet they’re working on series three, though.

There could have been the seeds of an altogether bigger and bolder thriller in all this

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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Comments

Furiously frustrating. Wasn't it all a bit like Scooby-Doo?

How was Elsa’s father in the end

What about the worst actor of all - the dog, Grimm? His body language was completely at odds with the wining or barking noises, probably because someone behind the camera was waving a sausage on a stick.

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