‘When was the last time you came so hard and so long, you forgot where you are?’ Very much The X-Files: Our Town in the style of Dog Soldiers, as cannibalistic hicks pick off visitors. The typical theme of these things is “metropolitan folk” confronted with an older, harder way of life and having to rediscover their own capacity for savagery in the process, and there is a bit of that here, as Owen disparages the countryside and Gwen struggles to comprehend strange, rural rituals. But mostly it’s just running round in the dark shooting guns and screaming.
Which isn’t actually a bad thing. I like Countrycide much better than Chibnall’s previous episodes. It’s a straightforward horror thriller with some good gory moments, a reasonably effective atmosphere and a twist that humans can be as incomprehensible and deadly as any invading alien. It has some pretensions towards folk horror (‘our tradition once a decade’) which are undercooked and don’t land, but its heart is in the right place.
It’s pretty derivative: the structure of the team losing their van and becoming separated as they explore a deserted town could be from any number of American horror movies including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – which is a big reference point (the dead animals hanging around the place; the meat hooks and fridges full of butchered flesh; the night-time race through the woods as Tosh flees a machete-wielding maniac). But again, these films are popular for a reason and this is a decent TV translation.
The bits that don’t quite work are, ominously, the most Torchwoody elements: the big discussion about snogging, and Gwen’s weird sexual tension with Owen; Ianto challenging Tosh ‘how long you can survive before you go mad, or get killed, or lose a loved one’; Jack bursting in at the eleventh hour for a slo-mo shoot out. Evan’s reveal, ‘It made me happy,’ isn’t nearly as profoundly disturbing as Chibnall seems to think. In the end, this is a big dumb horror episode, and as such I think it works fine.
Next Time: Greeks Bearing Gifts