Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
Stream to Scream: “RESIDUE”Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
One of the key differences between American and British television is that in the latter, there’s nearly an instantly immersive element to the storytelling. Whether it’s UTOPIA, BLACK MIRROR or RESIDUE, these genre programs throw the audience into their respective sci-fi/horror worlds with no expectation or preparation. While U.S. programs go to great lengths to establish tone and atmosphere before throwing their characters into their horror-oriented journeys, U.K. horror TV treats its audience almost as adversaries in a game of psychological chess, revealing it’s game plan by the time the checkmate is already in motion. And in the case of the aforementioned RESIDUE, that immersive storytelling is even more engaging when the payoff is that of the supernatural element.
Of course, RESIDUE is a unique case unto itself as opposed to most U.K.-born projects, especially considering it’s driving creative force is horror staple John Harrison. The former composer/first A.D. for George Romero has since become a respected writer/director in his own right (specifically with his breakout film TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE), and in RESIDUE, Harrison writes and produces the entire 3-part saga with UTOPIA director Alex Garcia Lopez guiding the series with a slick, haunting direction. And like most Harrison productions, there’s a brooding undercurrent of horror connecting the character drama, bouncing between the dread-inducing atmospheric chills and the more explicit, occasionally gruesome imagery.
But unlike most Harrison productions, RESIDUE is almost as intellectually savvy as it is interested in implementing its genre elements. As stylish as the visuals of the mini-series may be, RESIDUE is as interested in developing the mystery element as much as it does the prescience of the supernatural, and often does so booked in between dramatic character moments. RESIDUE makes the commendable decision to remind the audience that the world doesn’t stop in the face of ominous tragedy, with things such as organized crime and media still operating as normal. It’s that kind of approach that separates RESIDUE from other horror projects of its ilk, offering something closer to the likes of ALTERED STATES than INSIDIOUS.
Furthermore, RESIDUE plays its supernatural cards very carefully, although when it does indulge its more horrific side, it leaves little to the imagination. Whether it be possessions, nightmares or spectral phenomena, Harrison and Garcia are able to concoct ghouls that feel unique to their setting and the event at hand without necessarily delving too far into their origin or purpose. RESIDUE also is extremely careful about who is subjected to the horror and why, giving a psychological horror edge to the mini-series that helps keeps the narrative relatively contained. In that sense, RESIDUE does feel like it has the potential to grow into deeper, darker territory, and it’s description as a “three-part pilot” is fitting considering the unsettling place the mini-series seems to end.
RESIDUE also benefits from a stellar cast as well, all of whom give realistic performances that rarely play to genre conventions. Natalia Tena is great as Jennifer Preston, a photographer whose personal connection to the catalytic tragedy offers an intimate and believably fearful twist on the “amateur paranormal investigator” character. Iwan Rheon is equally solid as her ex-boyfriend and government employee Jonas, who is shockingly effective as a vulnerable and idealistic character as opposed to his cutthroat sadist on GAME OF THRONES. And Jamie Draven is excellent as Levi Mathis, a grieving father whose self-destructive path puts him in the middle of the harrowing going-ons in the series.
Overall, RESIDUE’s slow-burn, creep-out nature benefits from the immersive nature of U.K. television, delivering on horror and mystery that feels organically earned. While it doesn’t quite have the shock value of BLACK MIRROR or UTOPIA, RESIDUE doubles down on its characters and its world, offering a unique spin on a genre that rarely balances realism and stylistic storytelling so effectively. And should the series continue, RESIDUE could break out of the sleeper genre gem status into something much bigger and bolder in nature.