Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2005-09-26 Entry: "DVD Review - Hex"

Sold to me as "The British Buffy" this was a suprising blind buy. In usual British fashion, it's a series of only 6 episodes, or rather 5 including a feature length pilot, and it appears that series 2 is currently airing, so it at least survived the cliffhanger ending.

Hex focuses on the life of Cassie Hughes, a final year student at a stately boarding school. The boarding school is using a stately home, whose original owners made their fortune on the slave trade, and the lady of the house got involved in voodoo. A lot of this historical background is going to impinge on Cassie's life (with her unknown father and insane mother) as the series progresses.

Things start simply enough - Cassie finds a voodoo urn, and accidentally gets blood in it. Then she starts having dreams of the lady of the house and the bad things that happened all those years ago. Her only clue to what's going on is the word "AZAZEAL" carved on to the board where she found the urn.

Fortunately, the headmaster (Colin Salmon), in his Giles role, has a close, if slightly strange relationship with his A-Level students, and is happy to answer Cassie's questions, explaining that Azazeal was the leader of the Nephilim, a host of 200 fallen angels that God cast in to the Abyss. However, the mysterious guy who's stalking Cassie doesn't appear to be in any sort of abyss!

Cassie is something of an outcast, with Thelma, her lesbian roommate as her only real friend at the school. However, when she starts exhibiting supernatural powers (telekinesis, pyrokinesis), she finds a way to ingratiate herself with the in-crowd.

To fill the Buffy comparisons, we have our superpowered hero, Cassie; her lesbian best friend, Thelma; her knowledgeable teachers, David as headmaster, and Roxanne as the literature teacher; the dark stalking guy in Azazeal - the only thing missing from an initial view is a Xander archetype, but Leon fills the class clown role. Of course, there are some differences - the headmaster appears to be playing some sort of first-person shooter on his laptop when Cassie comes to talk to him!

This show doesn't pull many punches - we've got fingernails pulled out and girls hanged, we've got smoking, sex, alcohol, and teenage pregnancy. Of course, with a show with this many teenage girls in Britain, it's a fair bet a number of them smoke, and as last year students, the staff are accepting of the fact that these students can legally drink and have sex. Of course, when you're dealing with fallen angels, teenage pregnancy isn't going to be particularly pleasant!

Lets be fair - the special effects budget doesn't run very high here - no-one walks through the ghosts, in fact they go out of their way to avoid making contact with the living; possession by the Nephilim is indicated by bloodshot eyes; and the closest we get to serious effects are the positively goofy looking Azazeal in his true form. Fortunately we only really see that in the pilot.

So how is it? It's a little dark, and I'm surprised where they went with the end of the series - I was expecting a nice tidy wrap up rather than unleashing hell-on-earth. I was also surprised by the death of the best friend in the pilot - yes, okay, she's back as a ghost and they needed to show that the bad-guy was playing for keeps, but it was still unexpected. It'll be interesting to see where they go with it in series two... and please give it more episodes to play with!

Biggest peeve - inconsistency of ghostly interactions with the living world. Thelma is frequent to point out that she can no longer touch Cassie, but she ducks out of sight on anyone who might catch sight of her (except when they're watching the footie), and she can rewire plugs, raid vending machines, and look through school records to discover Cassie's father. She can also intrude in people's dreams and give them erotic lesbian fantasies, which provides a humorous moment when she gets tired of intruding on Cassie's dreams every night!

So overall a good show, that really didn't need the Buffy comparisons. Between this and Sea Of Souls, we're getting some good supernatural shows out of the UK at the moment. Now I just need to see if the new Doctor Who series is any good!

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