TV: Inside No 9 – The Devil Of Christmas

A new series of Inside No 9 starts in early 2017 but as a brilliant curtain raiser here’s a one-off episode with a Yuletide theme. The Devil of Christmas is set in December 1977 in an Alpine chalet where a nice middle class English family has arrived to enjoy a skiing holiday.

Of course not much skiing takes place. Instead the family spots a creepy picture on the wall and is told by their guide Klaus (Reece Shearsmith) about the legend of Krampus - a kind of anti-Santa who snatches away naughty children, puts them in a sack and takes them down to hell. They do love a dark story, do these Mittel-Europeans.

This doesn’t exactly relax young son Toby. And there is an air of anxiety elsewhere. Young wife Kathy (Call The Midwife’s Jessica Raine) is pregnant and also nervous, but husband Julian (Steve Pemberton) reassures her. And mother-in-law Celia is along for the trip too, played by Rula Lenska. The casting of Anglo-Pole Lenska feels like a homage to Polish Hammer horror icon Ingrid Pitt. Or maybe that's just me. 

But of course nothing is ever what it seems in this tale of the unexpected. As usual when writing about Inside No 9 it would ruin things to say too much. You’ll just have to watch to see how this pans out.

What we can say is that there is a tremendous attention to period detail. Series creators Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have presumably watched a fair number of ITV’s 1970s Thriller series – either at the time, or recently for research purposes, or both. Funnily I watched one last night myself on YouTube and by coincidence the version of the episode I saw began in a very similar way to this. 

It is worth noting that there isn’t much humour in this episode. Inside No 9 might come from two distinctive comic minds but it is a long way from the League of Gentlemen's Royston Vasey, which seemed to prefer to combine laughs with the macabre. The mood is unsettling from the very start here, which links it to classic ghostly dramas such as Whistle And I'll Come To You. Highly recommended. But don’t come crying to me if you have nightmares.

Watch on iPlayer here. 

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