sun 22/10/2017

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

Comments

Could not agree more, easily the worst offering I've ever seen in the legendary BBC4 Sat slot, severely letting it down. And how could we forget the meaningful final scene, with Jostein new getting the evil eye - never have I wanted a sequel less!

I actually quite enjoyed this show. I agree it wasn't feature length outstanding horror material such as the Shining. But overall it was a good effort and kept me watching. However, I came away feeling very unsatisfied at the ending. As Steve said is a sequel on its way? Or is this just a clever ending - Erkki and Mikkel drawing a picture of a car crash, as the survivors drive away, now with Jostein showing the evil red eye. And please explain the brother connection. I can't be bothered to rewind but did Erkki say he was the Sami (dark haired) kid? At the end wasn't it the Sami kid talking to Erkki who drew the car crash? So, was the old Erkki actually Mikkel? I so he was the key to it all in the end - the controller of fate?? And who killed Jessan and Oswald. The ghost was not a killer. Was it actually the real life Erkki or did Frank have a hand in the cellar (did he have a red eye?) - a few scenes of what have I done in the car left unanswered questions. Anyway. ;-) .. moving on.

Erkki was the Sami kid. Mikkel was the Aryan kid. When they were younger, their father made them fight to the death, but Mikkel refused to kill his brother, so the father killed Mikkel. The ghost of Mikkel was then coming back to prove to the father that he was strong and capable of killing by possessing the people who stayed at the hotel.

Yes, spot on. This was poor stuff, Poorly plotted, thumpingly obvious and 'Hello, I'm on my own and I'm coming into the supposedly cursed cellar with just a potty little phone light.....' etc Gee whiz, you're right. And the lack of whosis, blondie with a red eye driving into a huge rock made me say 'Please Gawd, not another series.' Because it was tripe. Which shows how generally dreadful Saturday night TV is, there was no alternative for a brain cell.

Very disappointing conclusion

By far the worst programme on the BBC 4 Saturday night slot. I never managed to get through more than 30 minutes. Ridiculous "plot" with more dead ends than Milton Keynes. What happened to the detective that was supposed to have investigated the murder of the family and what happened that storyline anyway? The basement of the chalet seems to have occupied a couple of football fields and more! The dialogue was risible throughout as were the characters. The murders were random or so it seemed. It may be that sleep overcame me so crucial bits may have been missed of course: who cares? Please no more!

A very confusing story - why did Johan try to kill Josten after Josten had just saved some lives by killing Dag? Did Johan also kill Osvald because he thought he had put in a rival bid for the hotel? Why hadn't the brothers bought the place earlier as they must have had plenty of time to set up their cannabis farm in the cellar? Why did it take so long after people had entered the cellar to find the cannabis farm? Who were the family we saw murdered in a flashback at the beginning of the first episode, and why was this never followed up? - or did I miss something. BBC can make good programmes themselves so I don't know why they wasted money on buying this very poor effort from outside.

I thought I must have missed something; if Erkki was the Sami brother, why did Mikkel leave the 'kill or be killed' message in Sami? And how was the lodge renovated (the cellar is suspiciously clean) without anyone noticing the 'secret' room? Ah, well. It was twaddle.

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