Dark Ditties #1: The Offer (2017)

Dark Ditties is an independent horror anthology show on Amazon Prime. In today’s post, we review Episode 1 (“The Offer”) which is free for Prime members to watch.

Dark Ditties is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting things happening in current British horror. It’s a self-funded anthology show, but the long episodes, sparse schedule and stunning posters make it feel like a cinematic universe. Four episodes are free to stream on Amazon Prime, with another coming soon.

The format is simple but beguiling. The stories stand alone and can be watched in isolation, but part of the charm is the way they interlink. As with Inside No. 9, it’s a repertory cast, so the same faces appear as new characters. Their biggest household name is soap legend Bruce Jones, who spent nearly a decade playing Les Battersby on Coronation Street. He gives a cracking performance for each “ditty”, making him a huge asset for the show. Apart from Les, horror fans will recognise half the cast from the early Hellraisers: Kenneth Cranham, who was Dr Channard; Oliver Smith, who was the skinless version of Frank; and most of the Cenobites (Nicholas Vince, Simon Bamford and Barbie Wilde).

We’ve watched three of the episodes, so let’s start by reviewing The Offer (2017).

In this bloody shocker, seven strangers are invited to a stately home, where a dead millionaire offers them the chance to win a vast fortune. Despite being dead, he plays a major part in what follows, having made a series of videos to act as umpire (this reminded me of Atmosfear, aka Nightmare, which was a boardgame that came with a VHS cassette).

In each round of the game, a tarot card is revealed, and the guests have to work out whom it refers to. If they get it wrong, the actual person is gruesomely dispatched. The connection will be a dirty secret or past transgression, but survival depends on getting it right, so the players have to spill the beans. After each death, the host appears on screen to explain his warped logic, acting as a sort of Greek chorus.

I found this impossible not to love. It has elements of Saw and Se7en but is done in the style of an Agatha Christie play. The performances are broad but lots of fun, with “Man of the Match” going to Les.

The characters seemed calibrated for stage rather than screen, which won’t be to everyone’s taste, but was very much to mine (because I love the theatre too). The eliminations are ample entertainment for a fifty minute run-time, and there’s a late reveal that I really enjoyed. It doesn’t have the polish of the big screen but makes superb use of its budget, telling the story with style and flare. My only critical note is, I thought the host was pushing the bounds of logic with his tarot cards (but I suppose he had to, or people would’ve guessed correctly).

“The Offer” is free to watch on Prime, so you’ve got no excuse to miss it. We’ll review the other episodes in due course. Stay tuned!

About the author

My name is Ellis. When I’m not reviewing movies, I write short stories about ghosts. If you like supernatural stalkers, you might enjoy Shallow Man, which is free to read online.

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