Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace Review

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace

by William Thomas |
Published on

Garth Marenghi — Self-styled “author, dreamweaver, visionary, plus actor” — is a genius. In the 1980s, after releasing a string of high-concept chiller novels such as The Ooze (can water die?), he turned his attentions towards TV. The result? Darkplace, a hospital-based horror drama set in pre-apocalyptic Romford. Too raw and edgy for the powers-that-be at Channel 4, it was yanked off the air. Only now, with the advent of DVD, can we reassess Marenghi’s masterwork.

It is, of course, all a big joke. Marenghi is actually comedian Matthew Holness, and in the same way as This Is Spinal Tap created a troupe of buffoons to lampoon rock, he and his company of actors have concocted the worst TV drama ever made, presented as if it was world-changing high art. The six episodes, lumbered with such brilliantly pretentious titles as ‘The Creeping Moss From The Shores Of Shuggoth’, are interspersed with retrospective musings from the stars, who are as misguided as they are idiotic. (Quoth Marenghi, who is modelled on more than one real horror author: “I know writers who use subtext, and they’re all cowards.”)

Darkplace itself is a tour de force of badness, a deliriously dim saga of cosmic broccoli, talking cats and phantasmal Scots. Taking aim at all kinds of targets, it’s particularly good at cross-breeding the clichéd tics of DTV horror with the worst excesses of ’80s TV — an overblown action sequence pauses for star/producer/effects man Dean Learner (Richard Ayoade) to explain, “The episodes were running up to eight minutes under — the only way to stretch them out was with slow-motion...”

As sharp and consistently funny as anything in the past ten years, the show was ironically cancelled after just one series. It’s since built up a substantial cult following — let's hope, then, this isn’t the last we see of Darkplace’s infernal corridors.

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