Hausen (3 stars)

Hausen Review

A dank, dark and sinewy German horror series that permeates a constant sense of doom

To say that the tower block in Hausen has a case of sick building syndrome would be something of an understatement. Over the very heavy course of this gnarly German steampunk horror series, the walls throb and ooze a sinewy black oil, the lifts are a frequent cause of peril, and every single light seems to be permanently on flicker mode. When we are offered the rare chance to escape Hausen's cloying claustrophobia and be outdoors, it's only a brief respite to accompany the camera slowly panning towards the building from below, showing its overwhelmingly threatening expanse. And much later, not only do the walls appear to have ears, but also a vast entire womb that has the ability to talk in a menacing growl.

After the death of his wife, Jaschek (Charly Hübner) takes up the post of building manager in a run-down tower block. When his 16-year-old son Juri (Tristan Göbel) begins to have curious encounters with a series of decidedly off-kilter individuals who live in the flats, they sense that the building itself might be controlling the residents by feeding off their darker emotions. The sinewy oil hits the fan when a freshly-born baby goes missing down a chute and a half-hearted hunt is triggered.

Meanwhile, various scenarios are played out in other flats that may or may not have a bearing on the main story: an elderly couple attempt to not torment each other while she coughs up a lung and tries in vain to finish a jigsaw puzzle; a man plays some Bach to a series of young girls who he may have unsavoury designs upon; another guy has a dangerous dog and a snake for pets; and some peers of Juri appear to be running a clandestine drugs operation through the same chutes where the baby was lost.

You'll have gathered by now that Hausen is not the cheeriest of watches, but the commitment made by director Thomas Stuber and his team to the cause is admirable. There are echoes of David Lynch's Eraserhead for style and sound effects (even down to a weird-looking roast chicken), Stanley Kubrick's 2001 (the last episode features a flat-out rip-off of that movie's epic Star Gate sequence), and even 15 Storeys High (if Sean Lock's downbeat south London sitcom had been relocated to eastern Germany). There are eight episodes to plough through and many will probably stop after two or three. But like it or not, Hausen offers a distinct vision of hell far away from the often clichéd European crime dramas that we are still being fed on the gloriously successful backs of The Killing and The Bridge.

Sky Atlantic, Fridays, 9pm; all episodes available now on NOW TV.

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