We’re Gonna Need a Broader Church

There is a Loch Ness monster.  It’s just not of the infamous serpent variety; it’s a two-legged homo sapien maniac prowling the picturesque tourist attraction of the Scottish coast.  And it’s a thrilling roller-coaster ride of suspense and terror, beautifully produced and presented in a new Blu-Ray 2-disc set, appropriately entitled LOCH NESS (aka The Loch), now available from the folks at Acorn Media/RLJ Entertainment/itv Studios.

Indeed, many of the blow-by-blow strings in this 2016 6-episode/2-disc gripping yarn emulate from the smash international success of its inspiration, the 2013 series Broadchurch. True, numerous imitation Broadchurchery has been scattered throughout the mystery mini-series universe since the original first appeared, but LOCH NESS, in my humble opinion, is the best.  In fact, in many ways this pupil is superior to its teacher.  A key factor in this decision has to do with the locale itself.  In Broadchurch, the seaside village was bleak, rather unpleasant and, granted, unnerving.  Here, the setting for these horrific crimes is gorgeous.  To my way of thinking, this makes the impact of the savagery even more shocking.

The people, on the other hand, are just as freakish in this scenario as in its mentor.  Once again, the protagonist is a rising star female detective (Laura Fraser) in the community.  And, once again, she is stymied by the arrival of a big city investigator, this time, a team – led by another formidable female sleuth (Downton Abbey’s Siobhan Finneran).  The conflicts, firings, re-hirings, and continuous discoveries are consistently exciting and engrossing – never letting up for any of the series’ six-episode 275 minute running time.  The mystique of Loch Ness, too, adds to the haunting paradoxical beauty and creepiness.

Homegirl fuzz Annie Redford (Fraser) thoroughly enjoys her work and lifestyle on the Loch.  Her husband (Coronation Street’s Gray O’Brien) makes a decent living scamming visitors on his “monster” boat tour.  Their daughter (Shona McHugh) has inherited the smarts from both her parents, and can hardly wait to leave for college and go all urban.

In a last-minute nod to her dad’s business (plus the opportunity to pull a cool gag), she and her teenage pals beach a fake monster, compiled of various animal entrails.  Problem is, upon closer investigation, some of these remains are human.  Soon, a well-liked teacher (Jordan McCurrach), is found murdered, then one of the local pranksters (Keiran Gallacher), and then…and then…More organ parts are uncovered, all belonging to different inhabitants.  And then there’s that (literally) heartless man, chained to the bottom of the Loch.

As the out-of-town detectives soon discover, everyone in the Loch has a secret – all of them heinous.  Aside from adultery, homophobia, rape, torture, drug abuse and sadism, there’s Annie’s knowledge that longtime kindly village fave (William Ash) is a convicted murderer.  Topping that off is the arrival of his psychotic former cellmate (Fraser James), bent on tracking him down and teaming up for a bloody crime spree.  Then there’s the concerned mom (Anita Vettesse) of an apparently severely handicapped soldier (Oliver Greenall), who is actually keeping the boy near brain death via toxic stimulants.  Then there’s the horrific high-school shooting massacre, perpetrated by yet another disturbed teen (Conor McCarry) obsessed with America (what a fucking sad comment that is on us, eh?).  The detectives themselves carry their own baggage, too, the rigid, short-tempered DCI Quigley (Finneran) and the brilliant forensic expert Blake Albrighton (Don Gilet), prone to violence – like thrashing a suspect (Alastair Mackenzie) he doesn’t like (in his defense, we don’t either).

The frightening conclusion of the piece will have you on the edge of your seat.  I guarantee you won’t see it coming, will never figure out who the psycho killer is (although, in retrospect, it makes perfect sense), and be ever quick to grab this gem to tantalize your home theater audiences, looking for a dazzling, breathtaking way to spend a rainy afternoon and/or the always welcome dark and stormy night.

The performances in LOCH NESS are top-notch, especially the leads, Fraser, Finneran and Gilet.  Appending the formidable acting chops is the superb writing by Stephen Brady and Chris Hurford; ditto the stunning photography by Denis Crossan and Nic Morris and the churning score by Ben Bartlett.  The shared direction of Brian Kelly and Cilla Ware seamlessly complement each other and masterfully triumphs in raising every goose bump to maximum level.

As usual, the Acorn Blu-Ray is showroom quality, meticulously detailed in 1080p High Definition clarity, offering a palette of hues and tones that our forebears used to cite as a riot of color.  The stereo-surround is often chilling and adds to the building tension of the narrative.

To enthusiastically recommend an Acorn title as one of their recent best is about as high a praise as any home video platter could aspire to.  Without reservation, I enthusiastically recommend LOCH NESS.

LOCH NESS.  Color.  Widescreen [1.78:1; 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 DTS-HD MA. Acorn Media/RLJ Entertainment/itv Studios.  CAT # AMP-2579.  SRP:  $49.99.




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