After the successful mystery series Wayward Pines (2015-2016), M. Night Shyamalan has now ventured into another series; this time with the support of Tony Basgallop (Hotel Babylon (2006-2009); Berlin Station (2017)) and Apple. The result is Servant, which has been shown on Apple TV+ since the end of November. And one thing in advance: The series is damn good and shows all the qualities of a Shyamalan in top form.
Servant‘s style has something old-masterly about it, almost Hitchcock-like (one of Shyamalan’s role models). By the way Shyamalan has – as his master – in the first episode, which he also directs, a cameo. In the foreground of the production are not blood or violence, but subtle psycho-horror. The story takes place in only one house, it’s nearly a chamber play between four persons. And it’s precisely this reduced constellation that intensifies the psycho effect and makes the atmosphere all the more intense, bizarre and creepy.
Shyamalan has always been strongest when he has settled his films most of the time in a small geographical space (in Signs the house of the Hess family, in The Visit the house of the grandparents, in Split Kevin’s cellar vault, in Glass the Psychiatry etc.). Now in Servant, he takes it to the extreme because the viewer never physically leaves the family home… and that’s the movie’s strength! The result is a horror-like chamber play à la Rosemary’s Baby!
On top of that the viewer can find some of Shyamalan’s strange and bizarre, even David Lynch-like humor in the series, as in The Visit (2015) before.
Multifaceted characters thanks to good actors
Another strength of the series: Its characters (all very antipathetic) and the talent of the actors who perform them. In Servant, everyone has secrets and strange aspects. Roles are constantly changing and so is the viewers perception of reality. Who is good, who is bad? Are we witnessing a supernatural story, hallucinations or a real deception? The excellent Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under (2001-2005)) steals the show from the cast members as a lunar mother. It is also with great pleasure that we find Rupert Grint who manages to make forget his cult character Ron Weasly without the slightest harm.
More about the story and what role the “baby” plays in it is not revealed here in order not to spoil the fun and the horror for the future viewers. To put it in a nutshell, Servant can be highly recommended for fans of psycho-horror and M. Night Shyamalan.
PS: This review was written after seeing the first three episodes.
Picture: Apple TV+