The Living and the Dead spins a wonderful tale of gothic ghost stories.
The Living and the Dead is a gothic horror drama that takes place in rural England in 1894. Every episode contains a story of its own that is intertwined with the big story arc, telling a compelling tale of the supernatural. It has a wonderful atmosphere that feels like the crispy Autumn and each story stays rather unexplained, even the big story arc. It therefore feels even more like the old Victorian ghost stories that never explained themselves but left it to the reader to come up with possible theories and thoughts. With wonderful art decoration, set designs, beautiful cinematography and atmospheric music this mini-series is a delight to watch for everyone who loves a well told slow burn ghost story that contains a lot of mystery.
It consists of 6 episodes with each a duration of 60 minutes. Each episode tells a different ghost story that Nathan has to deal with, while his own supernatural story becomes graver and more mysterious.
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After having lived and worked as a psychologist in London, Nathan Appleby returns to his home in Shepzoy Summerset, with his new and second wife Charlotte. His mother is dying and he and Charlotte decide to run the farm, which provides work for almost every men and women in Shepzoy, who are depended of them. While Charlotte knows nothing about farming, she learns quickly and tries to innovate the farm to secure their future, but is met with resistance. Nathan hasn’t processed the death of his son Gabriel of his first wife and now he has returned, memories start to surface, while also strange supernatural occurrences unfold all around him. Making the villagers superstitious of him. Slowly he is losing his grip on reality, his love, the farm and even his own sanity.
Why you should watch it
The story unfolds slowly, but with a beautiful and gripping style. Slowly we discover what happened to Gabriel and how that incident connects with what is happening now, although it’s not fully explained. It is shown as a mystery with spooky events, shot in a wonderful way that brings the vibe of those days and age alive. Their fears, hopes and the industrial age at their doorstep means change and resistance. The atmosphere is quite often ominous and foreboding, especially when Nathan starts seeing things in the house, that enhances the spooky vibe.
Each episode evolves around a mystery, a supernatural occurrence, that varies from a disturbed young girl, a man whose souls cannot find rest, five spooky boys who worked in the mines, a so-called witch who drowned, the ghost of a best friend and during All Hallows’ Eve the ghosts of the Roundheads appear in the woods. Each story is a perfectly told ghost story that contains drama, creepiness, tragedy, mystery, in which the characters always form the most important element and are always fleshed out in a compelling way. Their experiences, their connections to the supernatural are heavy on drama that is told in a very gripping and emotionally charged way which make it all very intriguing.
But the biggest ghost story is that of Nathan himself. His trauma about the loss of Gabriel, the ghostly appearances, and other strange discoveries distract him from the farm and Charlotte. And it slowly draws him away from reality, while the veil between present, past and future slowly becomes thinner. His story is the big story arc that connects to all the other ghost stories which results in great storytelling full of mystery, drama and spooky events. Both he and Charlotte are very well fleshed out and even some of the villagers get their own stories to tell.
The unraveling about the mystery surrounding Gabriel’s death, Nathan’s relationship with Charlotte and also the mystery surrounding his first wife, comes to a climax in the last episode that is quite different from the former episodes and explains less than you would have hoped. But it does connect the supernatural events, the spiritualism, the superstition and the specific feel of that age with the big mystery of what is happening to Nathan.
The Living and the Dead is a beautifully composed tale of ghosts, both living, dead and even unborn.
My favorite part
I love Victorian ghost stories because they are so elusive. It’s all about creating a creepy tensed atmosphere full of foreboding vibes, a lot of mystery that stays mostly unsolved but that lingers in your mind long after the story is finished. It’s no different with this mini-series. Each tale is compelling and is full of drama, gothic spookiness, and mystery and each one enhances the big story arc about Nathan. Although the very ending is a bit too elusive and asks for a second season, it also conjures up more questions and mystery that will make you want to watch it again, to see if there’s something you’ve missed in the narrative that can explain more about this ending that can feel a bit too sudden. But I love it when they put your mind at work and you have to connect all the dots, and fill in some missing dots for yourself. The story about the five boys was the most scary, but also the most heartbreaking, for everyone involved even the viewer. But the most impressive and surprising part was the last episode that connected past, present and future with each other, giving a special twist to what a ghost story entails or a ghost might be.
Scare factor: ★★★☆
Drama factor: ★★★★★
Originality factor: ★★★★★
Entertainment factor: ★★★★★
Cast and crew
The Living and the Dead is created by Ashley Pharoah. It stars Colin Morgan (Nathan Appleby), Charlotte Spencer (Charlotte Appleby), Malcolm Storry (Gideon Langtree), Kerrie Hayes (Gwen Pearce), Nicolas Woodeson (Matthew Denning), Cloe Pirrie (Lara), Tallulah Haddon (Harriet Denning), Elizabeth Berrington (Maud Hare) and Steve Oram (John Roebuck).
Music: The Insects. Cinematography: Matt Gray, Suzie Lavelle. Production company: BBC America, BBC Cymru Wales. Original Network: BBC One, BBC America.