If you opened your Netflix account only to discover promos for yet another series you'd never even heard of — specifically, one called Requiem — you're probably wondering what the hell this series is. And even if you decided to jump in blindly and give Requiem a chance, you're still probably wondering what the hell this series is.
That seems to be, to some degree at least, by design.
Requiem is yet another British acquisition by the streaming giant (it already aired in the U.K. earlier this year), but unlike Netflix's other recent Brit-horror import, The Frankenstein Chronicles, Requiem is devoid of any sense of adventure or fun. Instead, it feels like a six-part horror film in the veins of Rosemary's Baby, Sinister and Wicker Man. There are the gruesome deaths (two of which kick off the series premiere, so prepare yourselves accordingly), the eerie creakings of an isolated mansion and even a suspense-filled shower scene. But whether these horror references are homages to the genre or nothing more than clichés is often hard to parse amid the equally perplexing story.
Star Trek Beyond's Lydia Wilson stars as Matilda, a famed cellist who becomes consumed with a cold case of a missing child in a small, insular Welsh town. After Lydia's mother Janice (Joanna Scanlan) kills herself in front of her, Lydia discovers a box of clippings and photographs relating to the disappearance of the four-year-old Carys 20 years before. Unsure what her mother's connection was to Carys or whether this case played a role in Janice's death, Lydia and her close friend Hal (Game of Thrones' Joel Fry) travel to the town only to learn the owner of a historic local estate, Ewan Dean, unexpectedly took his own life the day prior to Janice's death.
It soon becomes clear that there's a strong connection between Janice and Ewan, and when Matilda first steps into Ewan's cavernous house, now owned by his dashing Australian nephew Nick (James Frecheville), she immediately feels a sense of familiarity. Has she been there before as a child? Or has she only been there in dreams?
The series weaves together these various mysteries through often opaque and convoluted fashion, introducing hints at the supernatural and even the possibility of connections to Satanism, while taking a painstaking long time to reveal what merit — if any — these theories have. There are secret identities and broken mirrors that potentially were casualties of some demonic force. There are multiple police investigations (one of which includes Downton Abbey's Brendan Coyle), angry village mobs, the unexplained deaths of entire flocks of sheep and even a love triangle thrown in for good fun.
Requiem juggles a lot of moving pieces, but the connection between them is often frustratingly unclear. The principal tenant of a great horror story is that it keeps you guessing without letting you feel completely lost - something that is much more manageable when working within the time constraints of a single film. However, by drawing Requiem's mysteries out into six one-hour parts, it can be incredibly difficult for viewers to keep track of all the threads or even just maintain interest in them.
Requiem is not without its merits though. Wilson is absolutely captivating as Matilda, who transforms throughout the series from a woman eager to embrace change to one who is unsure of everything, including who she is or what is even real. But as Matilda's world construct begins to crumble, she doesn't lose the drive to uncover the truth, no matter the cost to her career, her relationships or even her life.
Because of strong performances like Wilson's, as well as the series' lush use of sound, Requiem has enough compelling elements to make it a worthwhile weekend binge for die-hard horror fans (it is only six hours, after all). However, in the first three episodes made available to the press, Requiem doesn't exhibit enough mastery over its own storytelling to give us a strong confidence in the show's ability to stick the landing. It is, of course, entirely possible that by the end of the series, everything will become clear and we'll finally know what the hell Requiem is actually about. If those who stick it out are lucky enough, maybe the answers will even illuminate new layers to appreciate in this somewhat muddled binge. Or equally likely, we'll be left with more baffling questions, with the series withholding the answers we crave for the potential Season 2.
So what is Requiem? We still can't say with any certainty, but we do know it's dark, it's violent, it's weird and it's beautifully made. For some people, that may be enough. For others, Netflix has more than enough other interesting new shows on offer to keep you busy this weekend.
Requiem is available to stream on Netflix now.