This slow-burning slice of Tasmanian Gothic immediately drew comparisons to Twin Peaks thanks to its small town setting, missing teenage girls and hints of the paranormal, but it sits much closer to French sensation The Returned, or Peter Høeg’s environmental murder mystery Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow. The latter comparison is perhaps the best one, as our outsider heroine finds herself caught in the middle of a conspiracy that nudges against the boundaries of our understanding.
That heroine is Dr Anna Macy (The Night Manager‘s Elizabeth Debicki), an Australian living in London who returns to her home town of Kettering somewhat unintentionally. The traumatised Anna has been suffering blackouts, losing time as she remembers the night in the woods when her best friend went missing after seeing lights in the sky. She’s certainly not welcome on the island; a brutal reminder of a buried secret and still the prime suspect in the eyes of most.
But things are bad all over in Kettering. The logging community is under threat from bankruptcy and the protesting “greenies,” and when the outspoken daughter (All Cheerleaders Die’s Sianoa Smit-McPhee) of the mill’s owner goes missing, it seems like it’s happening again…
The Kettering Incident is beautifully shot (Little Fish’s Rowan Woods shares directing duties with Tony Krawitz), and there’s something undeniably intriguing about the lush forest setting contrasted with the absolute grimness of the storyline and characters. The fact that everyone in the show is so hard to like makes getting into it a bit of a struggle, especially as Anna, the series’ ostensible lead, is frequently sidelined while the rest of the story catches up with her.
The detective elements are frankly a lot less compelling than the genre ones (swarms of moths, disappearing water, aggressively creeping moss). Everyone’s got a secret, everyone hates each other, and it’s all so miserable that you wonder why anyone actually lives there. But when the writers pull that combination off, it’s gripping. A retirement party for the town’s chief of police halfway through the story is a fantastic bit of morbid dark humour, as the grieving and angry residents watch the singing and dancing out of a sense of duty.
There are some very strong performances, Debicki makes for an intriguing lead, it’s certainly atmospheric and, in spite of some major flaws and lulls in the storytelling, this is worth a look for anyone wanting something a little stranger from their murder mysteries.