A woman inherits a haunted house in Beyond the Walls, a new French mini-series – but while that might suggest this is a run-of-the-mill bumps-in-the-night affair, Beyond the Walls is a fascinatingly unique horror.
Spanning three episodes, it’s a masterclass in stretching out tension without breaking it. Writer-director Hervé Hadmar unfolds the mystery at his show’s heart at a slow enough pace to keep you unnerved throughout, but never bored.
Veerle Baetens is charismatic as our reclusive lead, who stumbles upon her inherited house’s secrets – to say more than it contains a parallel universe would spoil what’s in store – with an ambiguity that makes us unsure whether she likes the idea of a never-ending universe where she can stay hidden from real life, or whether it even really exists. But exist the house surely does, given the amount of effort that must have gone into building the property; the production design is exquisite, making the home a fantastically creepy character in its own right.
Just watching Lisa wander through the darkly lit chambers is enough to have you hooked; you simply don’t know what’s going to happen next. Animal masks, mysterious French men, children, things drowning in lakes, cute cottages, menacing old women; take your pick and it’s waiting for you in these unsettling, easy-to-binge instalments. One sequence involving strange dark figures, all shiny surfaces and gaping holes, is genuinely terrifying, as we get a glimpse of just how warped Hadmar’s imagination is. Forget the best on-screen wallpaper since The Orphanage; everything about this series is proper spooky, not least because Hadmar knows how much to explain and how much to leave unanswered, nibbling at your nightmares. Sometimes, the scariest thing is not understanding at all – and so we end up in a limbo somewhere between The Haunting, David Lynch and Doctor Who’s Blink. In a genre where CG spirits are increasingly common, this is a practical show that revels in the opportunity to create things that are just plain weird.
That’s not to say Beyond the Walls is a frustrating watch. The story packs a surprising number of twists and turns into its runtime, but the finale, which manages to be both eerie and moving, ensures that all the important stuff is wrapped up neatly. It’s a refreshing, satisfying change to the norm. In an age of sprawling sequels and expanding franchises, Beyond the Walls, much like fellow French series The Hunter, stays within its confines; it’s contained, but that only makes it creepier.
Beyond the Walls is now available to stream exclusively on SHUDDER UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, or £49.99 yearly membership.
For more on Shudder UK, including reviews of films available now, previews of what’s coming soon and an interview with Dearest Sister director Mattie Do, see VODzilla.co’s Shudder UK channel.