Critical Condition: Midwinter of the Spirit

Midwinter of the Spirit | Lightbox, from Tuesday

➢ “Heroines don’t come much more tormented than the one in this impressively chilling tale of an exorcism, nor is she remotely suited for battle against the complex of diabolical forces with which she contends. Therein lies the magic of tales like this. A country vicar in training to become an exorcist—or in the more delicate official description, a ‘deliverance minister’ for the Church of England—Merrily Watkins ( Anna Maxwell Martin ) suddenly finds herself called upon to help the police find answers to a frightful murder.” — Wall Street Journal.

➢ “Given Merrily’s likability (and doubts about her own competence) the plot is not just intriguing but also emotionally engaging. We may not yet know how or if the Devil is involved — but one thing does already seem clear: that Midwinter of the Spirit is an ambitious, and so far distinctly satisfying attempt to create what might be called Middle-England Gothic.” — The Spectator.

➢ “This is not a slow build, one that creeps up on you and takes you unawares. It dives straight in with a woodland crucifixion and then it’s pretty much full-on supernatural horror turned up to 11 from there. And just in case you’re not getting the message, the colour’s been turned right down so that there is a ghostly pallor to it; there’s an eerie score that crescendoes and becomes increasingly discordant in the run-up to the shocks; and there’s the sound of the whistling wind, even on what looks like a perfectly still day. ” — The Guardian.

➢ “There were one or two shocks that the late Wes Craven might have been proud of. Not least because so much of the creepiness was delivered via the exceptionally clever sound design. And it was all the more effective for the apparently mundane, small-town, semi-rural setting … Midwinter of the Spirit managed to be exceptionally creepy without ever venturing beyond the bounds of the credible, let alone (apart from an ill-judged and overcooked opening sequence) into the gory.” — The Telegraph.

➢ “Midwinter of the Spirit may be derivative but, such is the caution of television drama, it at least offers the schedules something different. Based on the second of Phil Rickman’s 13 Merrily Watkins novels, it is a thriller that actually believes in Satan. Anyone in it who doesn’t lives in benighted ignorance — a point of view that might yet bring an interesting focus to the tension between Merrily and her atheist teenage daughter.” — The Times.

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