One of the more critically acclaimed comedies around, anthology series Inside No. 9 returns for a dark festive special.
The series that was inspired by shows such as Tales of the Unexpected really takes the lengths to parody the series this time around, as “The Devil of Christmas” is made to look as much like a vintage 1970s horror thriller as possible, even using equipment of the time to make it, hence what we would normally consider to be the poor quality of the footage.
Set in an Austrian chalet (Chalet No. 9), the story revolves around the Devonshire family who have come for a holiday, consisting of husband Julian (Steve Pemberton), pregnant wife Kathy (Jessica Raine), her mother-in-law Celia (Rula Lenska), and Tony (George Bedford), Julian’s son from a previous marriage. While they settle down in the chalet the caretaker Claus (Reece Shearsmith) tells the family of the legend of Krampus, the anti-Santa who comes to punish bad children: first by putting wooden switches in their shoes, then by scratching, and finally by taking them down to Hell. The family ignore the superstitious nonsense until the next morning when Toby does find switches in his boots – can Krampus actually be real?
The answer is of course no – we know this, because the episode begins with a clapper board indicating this is TV programme being recorded. Less than five minutes in, we hear a voice over. The people talking are Dennis Fulcher (Sir Derek Jacobi), the director of this TV play, and an interviewer (Cavan Clerkin) asking him questions. Fulcher talks candidly about what it was like to make the programme, all the mistakes that are made and we learn more of his involvement in the programme.
Like with all of Inside No. 9 however, the real twist in the tale comes at the very end. Of course it would be bad of me to spoil it, which just goes to show what incredible writing talent Shearsmith and Pemberton have. The horror and dark twists certainly come as a surprise, while the commentary provides the humour. It is worth watching a few times because you can easily miss some gags. For example, a scene in which Pemberton’s character is having a shower, and in the next cut he is suddenly dry.
It is also great to see the lengths they went to in order to make “The Devil of Christmas” look so authentic. It is hard to think of any other writing team who would go so far as to find the tools that were used to make shows like this back in the day, and to bring them out of retirement. It makes the whole thing added depth, and the “poorer” quality of the footage helps make the whole experience more enjoyable.
Inside No. 9 is on the BBC iPlayer. The series continues in the new year.