TV Review: A Ghost Story for Christmas – Count Magnus

Just a year late, I catch up with Count Magnus, last year’s Ghost Story for Christmas

“He is not kindly remembered”

The question always springs to mind, when someone both writes and directs something I don’t like, would another pair of eyes have made this any better, to my mind at least… Sometimes I do believe it is the case; at others, it is difficult to see how that might happen. I’m afraid I’m in the latter camp with this latest Ghost Story for Christmas, part of the intermittent Mark Gatiss festive series.

This time it is MR James’ Count Magnus and it really seems to miss the mark. Jason Watkins leads the cast as Mr Wraxhall, a travelogue writer who happens across a spooky portrait of Count Magnus De la Gardie, hears the spooky tale of his rotten behaviour and then gets involved in a spooky adventure of his own. Except it isn’t spooky at all; there’s precisely one jump scare moment in the whole half hour.

Part of the problem lies in a patronising voiceover narrating the whole thing, flattening most attempts to build any atmosphere. But it is also just not that engaging a story to be told on screen this way, so much of it relying on the story of Magnus versus Wraxhall himself which, given the limited run time, doesn’t work. MyAnna Buring is suitably creepy as Fröken de la Gardie but you’re better off saving your time.

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