13 spooky British TV period dramas to watch this Halloween

It’s that time of year again!

As the dark nights draw in, let’s revisit some of British television’s creepiest period dramas.

Listed here, in alphabetical order, are 13 mini-series and TV movies that are guaranteed to give you chills this Halloween…

 

And Then There Were None

What’s it about?

BBC One’s acclaimed adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel finds ten strangers cut off from civilisation on an isolated rock off the Devon coast.

Written by Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations), the three-part mini-series aired in December 2015.

Who’s in it?

Aidan Turner (Poldark), Toby Stephens (Die Another Day), Sam Neill (Jurassic Park), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) and Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow).

What did the reviews say?

“There are twists aplenty in this tale, which adds several layers of social and psychological complexity to the time-honored formula of the country-house mystery.” – Variety

“Yet, ingenious as the ultimate puzzle was (and it is one of Christie’s best), And Then There Were None owes its reputation to the fact that its not so much a whodunit as an examination of guilt and the possibly (or lack thereof) of redemption.” – The Independent

 

Crooked House

What’s it about?

Written by Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss, BBC Four’s ghost story anthology is based around the goings-on in a haunted manor house. Each of the three 30-minute episodes, which aired over Christmas 2008, is set in a different time period.

Who’s in it?

Mark Gatiss (Dad’s Army), Julian Rhind-Tutt (Green Wing),  Lee Ingleby (Inspector George Gently) and Jean Marsh (Upstairs Downstairs).

What did the reviews say?

“Without relying on gore, blood and shocks, these tales harken back to fireside stories filled with dread, filmed and told in a slow methodical tempered way, with the horror and sheer creepiness.” – Den of Geek

“It’s not often that you see a TV drama so blatantly rubbing its hands with pleasure; you’d have to be trying quite hard to resist its charm.” – The Independent

 

The Enfield Haunting

What’s it about?

From the director The Killing, Sky Living’s three-part drama aired in 2015 and recreates the true story of bizarre events around the phenomena collectively known as ‘The Enfield Poltergeist’ that took place at a council house in the late 1970s.

Who’s in it?

Timothy Spall (The King’s Speech), Juliet Stevenson (Emma) and Matthew Macfadyen (Spooks).

What did the reviews say?

“This supernatural account of the famous 1970s London poltergeist is packed with genuine thrills and superb performances from a young cast.” – The Guardian

“This could be the best British ghost story we’ve seen on TV in years.” – List

 

The Living and the Dead

What’s it about?

From the creators of Life on Mars, BBC One’s supernatural thriller series aired in summer 2016.

The six-part Victorian era story followed a farmer who yearns to prove the existence of the afterlife.

Who’s in it?

Colin Morgan (Merlin), Charlotte Spencer (Glue) and Nicholas Woodeson (Taboo).

What did the reviews say?

The Living and the Dead is part procedural, part otherworldly drama, with some sci-fi elements.” – The AV Club

“It’s shaping up to be a nice six hours of spooky fun and games.” – The Guardian

 

Marchlands

What’s it about?

2011’s five-part mini-series Marchlands follows the lives of three families in different time periods (1968, 1987 and 2010) who occupy the same haunted house in Yorkshire, linked by the spirit of a young girl who died in mysterious circumstances in 1967.

A sequel series, titled Lightfields, followed in 2013 and told a brand new story in a house in Suffolk, set in 1944, 1975 and 2012.

Who’s in it?

Jodie Whitaker (Broadchurch), Alex Kingston (E.R.), Denis Lawson (New Tricks) and Shelley Conn (Mistresses).

What did the reviews say?

“The classy ITV thriller hasn’t been perfect television, but a strong concept and talented cast have made it well worth watching.” – The Guardian

 

Remember Me

What’s it about?

A three-part ghost story set in Yorkshire, BBC One’s mini-series featured Monty Python star Michael Palin in his first regular television acting role in 20 years.

The mystery begins when elderly Tom Parfitt’s arrival at a local retirement home leads to an eerie unexpected death.

Who’s in it?

Michael Palin (A Fish Called Wanda), Jodie Comer (Thirteen), Julia Sawalha (Absolutely Fabulous) and Mark Addy (Game of Thrones).

What did the reviews say?

“Blow the dust off your tome of collected M R James or H P Lovecraft and Remember Me’s themes of buried, Anglo-Indian guilt seem to fit well not only within the context of modern, multicultural Yorkshire, but also within the classic ghost story tradition.” – The Independent

 

Rillington Place

What’s it about?

Set in the 1940s-1950s, BBC One’s three-part drama series based on the true story of serial killer John Christie aired in 2016.

Who’s in it?

Tim Roth (Lie to Me), Samantha Morton (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Nico Mirallegro (The Village) and Jodie Comer (Doctor Foster).

What did the reviews say?

“The BBC’s retelling of a seminal case made for perfectly pitched, spine-tingling TV.” – The Independent

“The sheer menace of the thing is extraordinary. The interiors are tiny, dark, oppressive. The script is minimal, elliptical.” – The Guardian

 

The Secret of Crickley Hall

What’s it about?

Airing in December 2012, BBC One’s three-part adaptation of James Herbert’s chilling novel tells both the story of the modern day haunting of a troubled family and the dark events buried in their new home’s past.

Who’s in it?

Suranne Jones (Doctor Foster), Tom Ellis (Miranda), Douglas Henshall (Shetland) and Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones).

What did the reviews say?

“At its heart, The Secret of Crickley Hall was a study of atrocity against the WWII backdrop of one of humanity’s darkest chapters. Perfect Sunday night viewing – more like this please, BBC.” – Den of Geek

The Secret of Crickley Hall is a classic ghost train ride of a horror story: a composition of familiar thrills and chills, but there are still moments when an old spooky trope will rattle out of the dark and make you jump.” – CultBox

 

The Tractate Middoth

What’s it about?

Based on the festive ghost story by MR James, this brief 35-minute film was adapted for BBC Four by Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss in 2013.

When a relative comes to find a particular book at the university library, young student Garrett is drawn into a family feud over a will and its legacy – with terrifying consequences.

Who’s in it?

Sacha Dhawan (In the Club), Louise Jameson (Doctor Who) and Una Stubbs (Sherlock).

What did the reviews say?

“Like all the best ghost stories, The Tractate Middoth is spooky, not outright scary (although one brilliantly realised scene aboard a train may tip the balance).” – CultBox

“Gatiss’s grasp of mood and tone is so absolute that he can easily be forgiven the occasional lapse into cliché (spiders, shadows), while the inevitable sting in the tale will leave you with a deliciously lingering sense of unease.” – Time Out

 

The Turn of the Screw

What’s it about?

2009’s The Turn of the Screw TV movie was based on Henry James’s classic 1898 ghost story.

A young governess, Ann, is sent to a country house to take care of two orphans, Miles and Flora. Soon after her arrival, Miles is expelled from boarding school. Although charmed by her young charge, she secretly fears there are ominous reasons behind his expulsion.

Who’s in it?

Michelle Dockery and Dan Stevens, who later reunited in Downton Abbey as Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley, are joined by Sue Johnston (Waking the Dead) and Nicola Walker (Last Tango in Halifax).

What did the reviews say?

The Turn of the Screw is essentially a ghost story, although it’s ambiguous enough to allow for a purely psychological interpretation. This was a slick production with strong performances from Michelle Dockery as Anne, Sue Johnston as the housekeeper, and both kids.” – The Guardian

“Fine performances and a seamless production deliver the requisite chills.” – Variety

 

A View from a Hill

What’s it about?

Wallander writer Peter Harness adapted the M. R. James short story of the same name for BBC Four’s revival of the Ghost Story for Christmas tradition in 2005.

Aa man visits his friend and has an unsettling experience after borrowing some binoculars and venturing up Gallows Hill.

Who’s in it?

Mark Letheren (Wire in the Blood), Pip Torrens (The Crown) and David Burke (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes).

What did the reviews say?

“I found it to be a masterful telling of M.R. James story. In fact, this one is even more Jamesian than the book, if that’s possible.” – Amazon

 

Whistle and I’ll Come to You

What’s it about?

M. R. James’s Edwardian ghost story Oh, Whistle, And I’ll Come To You, My Lad has been adapted twice for the BBC, most recently by Luther creator Neil Cross in 2010.

James Parkin has just left his wife in the care of a nursing home. Pensive and emotional, he travels to their old favourite destination for rambling, an off-season British seaside town. There he encounters an apparition on a desolate beach, which begins to haunt him – with terrifying consequences.

Who’s in it?

John Hurt (Harry Potter), Gemma Jones (Last Tango in Halifax), Lesley Sharp (Scott & Bailey) and Sophie Thompson (Four Weddings and a Funeral).

What did the reviews say?

“This was, overall, a beautifully shot, strange and atmospheric retelling of a classic ghost story and if the shocking denouement didn’t give you the frights, then you’re made of sterner stuff than me. – The Arts Desk

 

The Woman in Black

What’s it about?

Based on Susan Hill’s 1983 novel, this adaptation aired on ITV on Christmas Eve 1989. The creepy ghost story follows young solicitor Arthur Kipps, who is sent to a coastal English village to settle the estate of a reclusive widow at the haunted Eel Marsh House.

Arthur Kipps is played by Adrian Rawlins, who later played Harry’s father in the Harry Potter movies. Daniel Radcliffe, Rawlins’ on-screen son, later played Kipps in 2012’s movie adaptation of The Woman in Black!

Who’s in it?

Adrian Rawlins (Harry Potter), Bernard Hepton (Mansfield Park), David Daker (Porridge) and Pauline Moran (Poirot).

What did the reviews say?

“The TV adaptation makes for a spine-tingling viewing experience. We’re more likely to curl up by the glow of the television than the fireside these days, and there is no finer treat than a ghost story for a winter’s evening.” – BFI

“It’s a good script aided immeasurably by a solid performance from Rawlins, set against a very creepy atmosphere with well-directed tension.” – Horror Freak News

 

Happy Halloween! Don’t scare yourselves too much!