Locke & Key, Netflix (4 stars)

Locke & Key

Classic horror tropes driven by a vital young cast in Netflix's latest scary caper

It's been a long and winding road to the screen for Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez's horror-fantasy comic series Locke & Key. A TV pilot starring Miranda Otto was screened at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con but never saw the light of day while a feature trilogy was announced at the same convention three years later, but also failed to materialise. Things were touch-and-go at times with this latest attempt too, when Hulu ordered a pilot but ultimately passed on it.

So Netflix stepped up to the plate, and it certainly seems that the show has found both its rightful home and format. Centred around siblings Tyler, Kinsey and Bode Locke (played respectively by Connor Jessup, Emilia Jones and Jackson Robert Scott, each boasting quite the acting CV despite their young ages), the series follows their upheaval to the family's ancestral home in seaside Matheson, Massachusetts after their father's murder. A gloomy, forbidding inheritance, the Locke children soon discover a series of magical keys hidden around the Keyhouse, which endow their wielders with supernatural abilities that a sinister demonic force is desperate to get her hands on.

Such a pulpy premise requires the right touch, and Netflix – clearly looking for something to fill the gap before Stranger Things' final season – knows the magic formula, sprinkling in nods to classic horror tropes, and placing a young, plucky cast at its core. Moreover, similar to the way that Stranger Things grounds its fantasy in strong performances and 80s nostalgia, so too does Locke & Key successfully sell its cheesier elements by placing the family's trauma at the tale's centre, weaving its beguiling horror aesthetic in with genuine character development.

The pacing of early episodes prove a little uneven, as they belabour the discovery of each key's abilities, and spend excessive focus on sickly, precocious Bode. But once Locke & Key hits its bracing stride midway through, the series proves a fiendishly compulsive watch that's more than worth the bumps along the way.

Episodes watched: 8 of 10

Locke & Key airs on Netflix, Friday 7 February.