Fresh from its US debut on Acorn TV, the latest crime drama from ITV Studios to center on a small community full of big problems is now on DVD and Blu-ray from Acorn Media. At first glance, Loch Ness (or, The Loch, as it was mysteriously rechristened in the UK for its home video debut there) feels like a less remote Fortitude (which Loch Ness creator Stephen Brady wrote a few episodes of, just for the record), mixed with just about every other small-town British mystery series produced in the last five years. And, though it frankly, may pretty much be just that (only without all of the science fiction style elements of horror), it’s still darn good fun.
In keeping true to its (original) title, Loch Ness centers on finding a monster. But this one isn’t a legendary aquatic beastie-critter whom next to no reliable sources have ever purported to have seen. Rather, this Loch Ness monster hails from the human species: a calculated, cold-blooded serial killer on the loose in a tiny, sleepy-headed community. A community, naturally, where the general population keeps up-to-date on the personal business of one another [insert the whichever other British crime drama you would like to compare Loch Ness to here]. Nevertheless, even a town as small as the fictional Lochnafoy has a lot of undivulged secrets.
And in this Loch Ness, there are more secrets to be uncovered than there are tall tales of Nessie. This permits an otherwise dull community to be alive with fear as many subplots and twists pop-up throughout the run of this compelling six-episode series. Taking the dynamic lead here is Laura Fraser (whom Americans may recognize from a season of Breaking Bad), who stars as Detective Superintendent Annie Redford, who has never worked on a homicide before. That all changes when a local music teacher is found with a chunk of cerebral matter missing from his brain, leading DCI Lauren Quigley (Siobhan Finneran) to travel down from Glasgow to lead the investigation.
Quigley, in turn, brings with her a famous criminologist (Don Gilet, EastEnders), whose own pursuit of truth and justice may be out of personal ambition. Were that not enough to alienate the three police officers Lochnafoy had before, the behavior of Annie’s (very naïve) college-aged daughter Evie ‒ played by newcomer Shona McHugh ‒ regularly threatens to remove her mum from the investigation. This begins with an otherwise harmless “Nessie” prank where Evie and her besties place select butcher shop remnants across the beach. What they don’t know (just yet, at least) is that our unfriendly neighborhood slayer adds a heart to their stunt. A human one. With a bite mark.
Filmed in and around the beautiful Loch Ness village of Fort Augustus, Acorn’s Loch Ness is quite a catch for the average American viewer tired of the same old hum-drum. Its lead actors do a marvelous job doing that acting thing (which I see very little of on US shows), the location is mesmerizing, and the multiple plot twists will keep you coming back for more. (Ironically, the British don’t seem to like the show very much as the Yanks, but I suppose they’re about as sick of crime dramas as we are of Reality TV, so it’s a fair cop.) Also starring here are Jack Bannon (Endeavor), Alastair Mackenzie, Gray O’Brien (Coronation Street) and a surprisingly serious John Sessions.
Even though it manages to leave a few holes before it’s all done and over (I also noticed one loose end gets wrapped up with a single line of dialogue, so you keep your ears peeled), Loch Ness still manages to emerge (ha-ha) a winner in my book. Acorn Media presents Loch Ness on DVD as a two-disc set. The series is presented 1.77:1 aspect ratio, and each DVD-9 disc sports three episodes apiece. English subtitles are included, just in case the brogues give you a hard time. The second disc features a number of EPK-style behind-the-scenes ditties as bonus materials, which gives the cast and crew a chance to talk about their time well spent on this intriguing mystery.