In horror films, it is standard procedure for characters to follow a course of action that no sane person would consider. Head into the woods in the middle of the night, with a madman on the loose and no batteries for your torch? Sure thing! And so it is in The Girl Before, a new psychological thriller on BBC One which is running on four consecutive nights this week and boxsetted on the iPlayer.
Single woman Jane (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and young couple Emma and Simon (Jessica Plummer and Ben Hardy), go to view the same house for rent. Even before the weirdness starts, you may be wondering why these people are keen to live in a house with all the warmth of an NCP car park, but there are bigger concerns. The estate agents explain that the house comes with a set of rules imposed by the architect.
No pictures, no ornaments, no carpets or rugs, no coasters (so far, so Grand Designs), no plants, no magazines, no books. They are only allowed one cupboard’s worth of possessions. Nothing must ever be left on the floor or the bed, and all of the above will be checked during routine inspections. Oh, and prospective tenants must fill out a questionnaire filled with such posers as: would you sacrifice yourself to save 10 innocent strangers?
Any normal human would have run like the clappers and started looking at nice Victorian flat conversions with Lucinda from Foxton’s, yet off these three pop for an interview with the creepy architect. Edward Monkford (David Oyelowo) staffs his office with unsmiling women straight out of Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love video and says things like: “My houses make demands of people, Jane”, and that he will collect their “data” in place of rent. So, of course, they sign up.
Things get even more ridiculous in episode two when both women fall for Edward’s charms, despite him not having any. He skulks around wearing black polo necks (always a bad sign) and explains that he likes his relationships to be as minimalist as his houses. He freaks out at the sight of a teapot.