Viewer’s Discretion: ‘Black Spot’ and ‘Kaleidoscope’

black spot


The isolated village of Villefranche, which sets somewhere on the edge of a foreboding forest with a personality of its own, is the setting for “Black Spot,” or “Zone Blanche” as the series is known in its native country of France. The title supposedly refers to the spotty cellular coverage that supposedly separates the place from the outside world, but in reality, it has more to do with its existence in the shadows of reality, where legends and tradition collide with unusual events to create rumors that something strange is going on there.

That’s what attracts Prosecutor Franck Siriani (Laurent Capelluto) there, his interest building into an attempt to uncover why the murder rate is six times higher than the national rate. His effort butts up against the town sheriff, Major Laurne Weiss (Suliane Brahim) whose mysterious teenage trauma in the forest has fueled her view on what is exactly happening in Villefranche.

Despite the story arc, it’s an episodic show, which is to its advantage, isolating your attention per mystery and using this to build on the larger picture by creating a continuity of strange situations finding more rational answers. But rationality is not the complete picture here and “Black Spot” keeps its more magical aspects close to its presentation, even as it indulges in some more traditional plot lines, like a corrupt rich family and pro-environmental terrorism. And one of the things the show does best is to examine how reality warps in people’s minds in conjunction with old weird tales and an unsettling ambiance to create a fantastical present at odds with the secular proof.

And if at times it seems a little like the French answer to “Twin Peaks,” with a dash of “Lost” thrown in there, that’s fine — the central mysteries the show builds up grab your attention and their conclusion make for good suspense television focusing on a creepy location.


Derangement is sometimes born, often exacerbated, by isolation, and isolation is only partially a physical state. In the modern world, emotional isolation is probably the more prevalent manifestation, and in “Kaleidoscope,” this circumstance is utilized for a moody, mind-freaking slice of psychological horror.

Carl (Toby Jones) seems like a meek little man, but small hints add a foreboding to his situation as he prepares for a date with a woman he met through an online dating site. There is something not quite right about Carl, which is clear throughout the date but then becomes magnified when his mother (Anne Reid) shows up unexpectedly. Her presence enrages Carl and the audience is charged with reading between the lines as best they can while Carl desperately tries to cover up a crime he has committed. As things fall further apart, so does Carl’s grasp on reality.

Jones strikes a perfect balance between sinister and pathetic, without allowing the viewer to settle on either, under the direction of his brother, Rupert Jones, in his directorial debut. It’s a claustrophobic production that depicts the inner isolation very well within the tone of its visual spaces, exploring disconnection and rage, and the monsters that lurk within any of us and often rattle their cages in their frenzy to break out.

Originally published at

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