Review by C.J. Bunce
Screenwriter Sarah Phelps (EastEnders, Dublin Murders) is back with her next project, another adaptation of a well-known Agatha Christie work, a year from release of her first Amazon Studios project, The ABC Murders (reviewed here at borg), which starred John Malkovich and Rupert Grint. The new series is Christie’s creepy tale The Pale Horse, a supernatural mystery from 1961, directed by Leonora Lonsdale (Beast). The series stars Rufus Sewell (The Man in the High Castle, Zen, A Knight’s Tale) as Mark Easterbrook, a man of questionable character whose wife dies in the bathtub at the beginning of the story. Remember his name, because it is included last on a list found in the shoe of another dead woman. Why women are ending up dead found on the list, and why Easterbrook’s name was included, is the key mystery of this two-part series.
As Easterbrook is hounded by the local police led by Sean Pertwee (Gotham, Doctor Who) as Inspector Stanley Lejeune–who is investigating the string of deaths. Easterbrook decides to investigate himself, to beat the inspector to the answer, which takes him to the small town of Much Deeping. Much Deeping has an inn, an inn that is home to three witches, and he figures that somehow they are connected. Easterbrook’s second wife, a key player in the story, is played by Kaya Scodelario (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, The Maze Runner). This is another Christie story of lies, and the lying liars that tell them, with the oddball, quirky twists we saw in both The ABC Murders and Murder on the Orient Express.
Rounding out the cast are familiar genre faces Georgina Campbell (His Dark Materials, Krypton, Broadchurch, Black Mirror) as the first Mrs. Easterbrook and Bertie Carvel (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Sherlock, Doctor Who) as another man interviewed in relation to the deaths.
As hinted at in the trailers, the tone of the film is all The Wicker Man with a Brit Mad Men era vibe. As in Christie’s story, Phelps taunts the viewer with the question of whether something supernatural is really afoot, or whether there is some more rational explanation.
The Pale Horse is both less than and more than Phelps’ earlier adaptation of The ABC Murders–more tempering of the gross (oogy) bits and details of the story (a good thing), but also much less on the intrigue and suspense.
Similar to Phelps’ Dublin Murders series, this is another story you might pass on. Still, Sewell and Scodelario fans may want to catch it while waiting for their next projects. Watch The Pale Horse here now, streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime.