wed 17/10/2018

Black Lake, Series Finale, BBC Four review – Nordic noir comes to an unsatisfying end | reviews, news & interviews

Black Lake, Series Finale, BBC Four review – Nordic noir comes to an unsatisfying end

Black Lake, Series Finale, BBC Four review – Nordic noir comes to an unsatisfying end

Poorly paced and badly scripted, this Swedish horror didn't have a ghost of a chance

Unbelievable characterisation: Black Lake concludes

Beware – here be spoilers, though if you can make them out through the blizzard of cliché that engulfed the last double-bill of this thunderingly underwhelming Nordic noir then you’re already ahead of me.

Black Lake (BBC Four) saw a group of largely unlikable wealthy young people, led by the rude and overbearing Johan (Filip Berg, pictured below), stuck at a ski resort in the middle of nowhere with, wait for it: no phone signal, a pair of unlikely brothers (one of whom looks like a serial killer, while the other acts like one) and, best of all, a grumpy and deeply suspicious caretaker. After the group discovered the grisly history of the resort, there were ghostly goings-on including doors slamming and unexplained noises from the cellar.

Add to this a food-loving member of the group preparing snacks in the kitchen and we’re just a talking cartoon dog away from Saturday morning TV. Of course, things did turn darker than people being chased down a corridor by an empty suit of armour, but not in a way that brought anything like the required sense of tension, not least because so few of the group were in any way sympathetic.

Part of this was down to unbelievable characterisation, typified by the hapless gang's utter lack of good sense throughout. After the unfortunate demise of Jessan, people seemed reasonably happy to stay put, rather than, oh, I don’t know, GOING HOME AT THE FIRST AVAILABLE OPPORTUNITY! Were I ever to find myself in that situation, one thing I would absolutely in no circumstances do is "stick around and get to the bottom of things".

Anyway, as we came into episode seven, with the body count at a respectable three and a bad outbreak of conjunctivitis still appearing to turn people into stone-cold killers, it seemed as though closure was coming a little more quickly than two episodes of an unevenly paced and overlong horror thriller would be able to deal with.

Throughout the series, Mette (scientific reason) and her sister, Hanne (unwavering belief in the unprovable), have been rather clumsy drawn as opposing voices regarding the possible causes. The discovery of a massive marijuana farm belonging to brothers Jostein and Dag in the cellar of the resort was the "Oh I see!" moment I’d been waiting for. Of course! The brothers had been scaring the group away from a location that held great value for them by pretending there were ghosts knocking about. And they would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids! OK, so this did leave a few loose ends, but I was willing to accept some narrative cul-de-sacs in exchange for an immediate cessation of events and a stop notice on any more hackneyed tracking shots down corridors. Job done, the brothers did it, just be thankful it wasn’t the grumpy caretaker (Nils Ole Oftebro, pictured above). Yay!

As episode eight started, the realisation that this wasn’t going to be anywhere near as simple sunk in. It was the caretaker you see – or, at least, his dead brother, Mikkel, whose ghost was trying to prove something or other to his eugenics doctor father, who had murdered him at the resort – once a medical facility to advance "ethnic purity". The subject of racial biology as practised by Swedish doctors in experiments that inspired the Nazis felt like a subject worth exploring, but it was rushed, glossed over, obscured by the ghost of a child. It was a shame – it’s not like they didn’t have the time.

Black LakeBut brothers, specifically dead ones, seemed incredibly important. Johan murdered Elin (Anna Áström, pictured) for killing his, Hanne admitted that she hadn’t just let her brother down, she actively let him die, and Jostein killed his brother Dag in a scene played out exactly as depicted by a drawing done by caretaker Erkki’s dead sibling. That said, I’m not sure why this narrative nail was hammered home quite so bluntly when there seemed to be little else we could take from it other than “Hey, coincidence".

As the episode dragged itself to a conclusion, a couple of things occurred to me. Firstly, while it’s hard to judge dialogue when subtitles are involved, a character leaving a ski lodge in which lie eight bodies, six of them friends, while saying, “That’s the last skiing holiday I’m going on”, makes her sound like a fucking psychopath, not the likeable, stoic heroine of the piece. This wasn’t, by the way, a particularly outstanding example. Secondly, if you’re so obviously in debt to Kubrick, Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity, you really should make sure the piece is good, as these will be the benchmarks by which it is judged. Spectacular scenery is great, but it might still be worth running the rushes by someone to make sure that you have reimagined The Shining, and not just made a grown-up Scooby Doo

@jahshabby

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