The Secret of Crickley Hall is a disappointing ghost story that not even Suranne Jones can rescue
“Hands up who wants to move out of here
‘Hands up who wants to know where Cam is?'”
You know how it is. You nod off while you’re watching your son at the playground and then he disappears. And then 11 months later you move to the north and find yourself in a haunted mansion where his spirit starts talking to you. Such is the world of The Secret of Crickley Hall, which flits between affecting family drama and haunted house hokum as it follows its parallel timestreams.
Adapted by Joe Ahearne from James Herbert’s novel (airing on the BBC on 2012), the current-day trials of the relocated Caleigh family run alongside the experience of the group of orphans who were evacuated there in 1943. At the heart of the story lies Eve, wracked with guilt over the disappearance of her son Cam, the conviction that she has some kind of sixth sense leaving her susceptible to the torrid history of her new home.
At the same time, we follow that history as a kindly teacher, employed to teach those orphans, finds herself increasingly disturbed by their treatment by Crickley Hall’s creepy owner. And that is the main problem with this adaptation, in that the 1943 strand is far inferior to the present-day. Suranne Jones is excellent as the mother haunted by her guilt as much by spirits, the impact of her son’s disappearance on the rest of her family a frustratingly under-explored theme.
But the heavy-handed way in which the wartime timeline is delivered has no feeling to it, no real emotion, and so it has nowhere near the required impact. And thus the resolution of the story, with the requisite highly improbably coincidences, lacks the depth to connect beyond the cheapness of jump scares. Disappointing.