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Dark Ditties Presents (2017 - )



Dark Ditties is a very British Horror, Comedy Anthology series. Even though each episode exists within the same Dark Ditties universe, each one is a self-contained story with new characters and setting. 




Review

Dark Ditties Presents is an anthology series akin to something like The Twilight Zone, but with some minor differences. The first, and most notably, is that the cast largely move from one episode to the next, portraying different characters in each. This in itself is an interesting concept, one that has been done before, but also opens a can of worms - but more on that later. The second is the horror aspect of the series. Each episode so far contains a different level of, and / or type, of horror. It makes for an interesting watch, but also a very mixed bag.

The first of the ditties is The Offer (2017).

Seven strangers are invited to a house to be offered a large inheritance, instead they find themselves trapped in a deadly game to the death.

Written by Adam Evans, Neil Morris, and Gary Smart, with neither Evans nor Morris having prior experience, the story is interesting enough, but a little lacking in originality. Which isn't a problem. Directors Chris Griffiths and Gary Smart don't do a bad job. Directorial choices are solid enough, but they didn't seem to get the best out of the cast. Speaking of which, the cast is sort of Brit-Cult. This is a theme across the series, but here we see Hellraiser II alumni Barbie Wilde, Simon Bamford, Kenneth Cranham, Nicholas Vince, and Oliver Smith, as well as Coronation Street's Les Battersby, Bruce Jones.

The episode is the probably the weaker of the three, the story is fairly cliched, some of the acting is spotty - one particular performance is extremely poor - but some of the other acting is spot on. It really highlights the players that are struggling. It's a fun watch, but ultimately not particularly scary, thought-provoking, or rewatchable.




The  second episode, Mrs Wiltshire (2018), has a far surer footing than the first.

An elderly lady Mrs. Wiltshire is trapped in her house by the evil spirit of her deceased abusive husband. Despite her son Tony's pleads to leave with him, Mrs. Wiltshire is torn between two choices, be imprisoned in the house or be free once and for all. A heart-breaking and disturbing tale of sacrifice and a mother's love.

Written and directed by Neil Morris and Gary Smart, the story is slower paced, but far more gripping, the direction is solid, but this time the performances are pretty much perfect across the board. Stanley Rawlings, Jones and Bamford recur in the episode and are joined by Doris M.F. Bohnam as the titular Mrs Wiltshire. Bohnam is stunning in the part and the highlight of the episode, but very sadly passed away before it was released.

Mrs Wiltshire is a hard watch. Starting as a slow drama, the performances pull you in, and then the story becomes horrifying, disturbing, and distressing. Based in real life horror, it will make you sick to the stomach as the story goes on.

But to be so affecting shows how good it is. In contrast to the first episode, it is thought provoking, scary, and re-watchable, not that I think I could find the stomach to sit through it again.

The third episode (and final at the time of writing - though more is coming) is Finders Keepers (2018).

Two inept poacher brothers stumble upon a barely breathing man with a locked briefcase in the woods.

Directed by Adam Evans, and written by Evans, Morris, and Smart again, Finders Keepers is definitely the most 'fun' episode. The series has at this point found its feet and is outing some quality material.

Returning are Jones, Cranham, Smith and Bamford, joined this time by The Bill's Carver: Mark Wingett. The story this time is fair, there's a nice twist, and it's an enjoyable watch. It's another non-scary entry, but there's some gore to sate the hounds, and a decent spatter of humor too. The cast pull great performance duty here, with Wingett being outstanding.

Overall Dark Ditties is a good watch. The Offer is a wobbly start, but the series progresses quickly. The biggest problem an anthology series faces when recurring stars appear, is that the episodes will be likened to other episodes, rather unfairly. The biggest problem for me, binge-ing the series is the performance of Bruce Jones. He played such an unbearable cretin in The Offer, and I dare to say wasn't reigned in by the director, that when he appeared in Mrs Wiltshire and put in a restrained and damn right terrifying performance, it makes The Offer seem all the worse for it.

Worth watching, it's good stuff.



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