Every now and then I like to see what television is getting up to in the way of crime dramas. Sometimes I get rewarded with modern-day classics (the first series of ITV’s BROADCHURCH, both series of the Scandinavian THE BRIDGE), and sometimes I end up having to plough my interminable way through something that isn’t quite so good (the second series of BROADCHURCH, HINTERLAND). Sadly, ITV’s new serial SAFE HOUSE falls into the latter category, but there are still some touches that might make it worthwhile for connoisseurs of both BritCrime, BritHorror and Stuff That Just Goes A Bit Loony At The End.
Robert (Christopher Eccleston) used to be a policeman. Then the woman he was meant to be looking after ended up shot dead while he escaped with a bullet through the shoulder. Now he lives with his wife Katy (Marsha Thomason) in a gloomy old farmhouse in the middle of the Lake District. Robert’s old boss Mark (the always watchable Paterson Joseph from PEEPSHOW) suggests Robert’s place would make a good safe house, and also gently ease Robert back into a job he is obviously missing. Robert agrees and soon the house is home to the Blackwell family, who are on the run after an attempted abduction of their young son and an assault on David, the father. Needless to say neither of these acts were random, and now the assailant is looking for them.
Marc Evans, the director of SAFE HOUSE, was responsible for the one decent episode of HINTERLAND. He works hard here to once again give us a bleak tale of British Winter gothic. The house itself resembles a cross between the farm from FRIGHTMARE and the hotel from DAGON, with environs to match, and at one point we pay a visit to TEXAS CHAINSAW island, or at least it feels as if we’re going to. Overall we get plenty of nicely grim and atmospheric touches that suggest we really need an all-out balls-to-the-wall modern horror picture from this man. Acting is pretty good as well, with both Eccleston and Joseph being the main reasons to keep watching.
It’s the script that lets SAFE HOUSE down. After a reasonable first episode set up, the further three episodes the series consists of become increasingly meandering and unfocused. From episode two people begin to behave so stupidly that they quickly lose sympathy. I’m sure there must be a scriptwriting rule for the number of silly things you are allowed to have characters do before an audience will throw its hands up in frustration. The problem is that happens so early on in SAFE HOUSE and so frequently that the series quickly reaches the point of no return. At the end everything becomes ludicrous, which might just work if a more over the top approach had been used throughout. Instead you're left scratching your head and wondering if that was how the story was meant to end, or if they needed to fill twenty minutes.
RLJ’s DVD transfer is passable. One suspects the muddy, drab settings that we get throughout this probably wouldn’t look that great on even the finest of HD Blu-rays, so one can hardly blame them for not using a better format. The two disc set also includes interviews, a making of, and a meet the writer.
RLJ Entertainment are releasing SAFE HOUSE in a two-disc Region 2 DVD set on 25th May 2015