body horror

[AppleTV+ Review] Servant Season 1 (2019) ★★★★☆

Leanne holding the doll baby in Servant season 1

Servant serves an atmospheric but nasty dish of mystery and terror. 


Servant is a supernatural mystery Apple TV+ Original horror series with an uncomfortable atmosphere and a carefully made-up mystery that is very intriguing. It’s a highly well-crafted series that has a slow pace, but will pay off at the end, although not quite everything will be explained. With highly unlikable characters, beautiful art design, original camera angles and shots that add to the suspense, and a lot of distasteful and disgusting scenes, the series has a required taste in more than one way. 

This first season consists of 10 episodes with each a duration of 30-35 minutes. It has a continuous storyline that with flashbacks unravels the mystery of Leanne and baby Jericho. 


Plot

Dorothy and Sean Turner are very rich and successful people. She’s a tv reporter and he is an acclaimed chef. They live in a beautiful home and all that they needed was a child. But 13 weeks after Jericho was born he died and Dorothy had a mental breakdown. Her doula and mental coach suggested a lifelike doll for Dorothy to cope with. But that has been going on for far too long. Instead of confronting her, Sean agrees with Dorothy to hire help, so she can get back to work.

When Leanne arrives she plays along with Sean and treats the doll as a real baby. Till the doll becomes more than life-like. A real baby is found in his crib. Not knowing what to do, Sean calls in the help of Dorothy’s brother Julian and they decide to keep the baby, at great costs. 


Why you should watch it

Servant is not for everyone. It takes patience and the slow pace can be tedious for some. Almost every scene takes place in the house, which is absolutely gorgeous and shows that all glitter and glamour and a grand exterior doesn’t automatically mean that it’s all happiness inside. Far from it. Both Dorothy and Sean are very unlikable and unhappy people. They are self-indulgent, selfish, vain, privileged and not at all nice to other people. They indulge in extravagant food, wine and Julian drinks and abuses drugs more than that he eats. They have no consideration for anyone else than themselves. 

While Sean is a chef, he cooks delicacies that are prepared in the most disgusting ways. The eel scene is absolutely distasteful and disgusting and luckily not real. But after watching the series you probably never eat fish again and now you know what could be inside a profiterole you will never touch it again. I don’t recommend watching the series while eating. Although the cooking and preparation scenes are mostly fillings for a gruesome dish that is the mystery behind it all, it also has a function to make you like Sean even less. Mostly he and Julian make the most selfish choices without any scruples and have no sense of morality at all. 

That goes for uncle George too. When he comes visiting, unannounced and uninvitedly, Leanne is shocked. Her fear of him is fortified by our dislike of him. He is gross, vile, dirty. The sound when he takes off his shoes is so gross and his bare feet are disgusting. You almost feel, while watching, that everything is done to gross you out, to shock you, while the surroundings and the way people act is most civilized but in fact mean and low. 

While the house is dark and gloomy, and mostly everything is shot inside the house, the series looks very dark and sometimes it’s hard to see what’s happening. But we and Sean and Dorothy aren’t only kept in the dark literally but also regarding the mystery. It takes a long time to find out what is happening. That goes for what happened to Jericho when he was 13 weeks, and what is happening now and what Leanne has to do with it, too. 

Leanne, although she’s the most elusive and probably the reason why nasty things are happening to Sean, is the most agreeable person in the house, although she has an ambiguous vibe. She is the only one who is shocked when an animal gets hurt, she really cares for the baby and takes a liking to Tobe the sous-chef, who is the only sincere nice person. 

With a slow pace, where seemingly nothing happens, but a repeating of behavior of the same people (which is intentionally), slowly the mystery unravels, until in the last two episodes a lot more is explained. It’s an intriguing watch and you are forced to keep watching to let the secrets unfold. The supernatural elements are subtle and mysterious.  Also the acting was top notch. Everybody did a tremendous job, making such unlikable people believable. 

Although we only get a hunch of things, what Leanne might be and how she came to the Turner’s, who her aunt May an uncle George are and what happened to Jericho then and now, there’s a lot more to explore in an eventual second series. 


My favorite part

Actually I didn’t enjoy the series at all while watching. I thought it was gross and disgusting, the main characters except for Leanne are vile people I didn’t like to watch. Nothing really happened, it was dark, although the camera shots and cinematography were gorgeous. But I still kept watching. It was an intriguing and captivating watch even despite all these cons I just described. 

Maybe because Leanna is such an elusive figure and almost depicted as the bad guy, I really wanted her to be the good guy. For she was the only one I really liked. She cared, was compassionate, a bit odd and frightening at times, but you just get a feeling that she’s not the big bad here. And that she’s a tragic figure, mystical but for a reason she is called the Servant and not a free high spirited girl. She’s a little light that shines in the dark house, the dark characters that inhabit it and the dark secret and misfortune that befell them. 


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★☆

Gore factor: ★★★★★

Thrill factor: ★★★☆☆

Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆

Originality factor: ★★★★☆


Cast and crew

Servant is created by Tony Basgallop. It stars Nell Tiger Free (Leanne), Lauren Ambrose (Dorothy), Toby Kebbell (Sean), Rupert Grint (Julian), Tony Revolori (Tobe), Jerrika Hinton (Natalie), Boris McGiver (Uncle George), Alison Elliott (Aunt May) and Philip James Brannon (Roscoe).

Music: Trevor Gureckis. Cinematography: Mike Gioulakis. Production companies: Blinding Edge Pictures, Escape Artists, Dolphin Black Productions. Original network: AppleTV+


Check the trailer below


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