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A weekend of scary: 2 shows filled with terror

By Ellen Gray, Philadelphia Daily News

Horror fans who haven’t become jaded by the never-ending bloodbath on FX’s “American Horror Story” have probably already marked their calendars for “Stephen King’s Bag of Bones,” a two-parter that begins Sunday on A&E.

But while there are a dependable number of shivers in this latest King adaptation, which stars Pierce Brosnan as a widowed writer who finds himself embroiled in a custody dispute with the usual very dark overtones, it’s not even close to being the most terrifying thing you could see on TV this weekend.

That honor goes to the Sundance Channel’s presentation of “Appropriate Adult,” a film about an infamous British case in which a serial killer developed an unusual bond with the woman assigned to monitor his interrogations.
Frankly, it scared me silly.

“Appropriate Adult” was reportedly controversial in Britain, where some felt it exploited an infamous case in a way that could only bring pain to the victims’ families.

Here, where far fewer of us know much about Fred West or his wife (and sometimes accomplice), Rose, the first shock is likely to be seeing Dominic West (no relation, one hopes), of HBO’s “The Wire” and BBC America’s “The Hour,” playing a man who speaks almost casually of cutting up his daughter’s body and disposing of it in the trash.

Emily Watson plays Janet Leach, a social worker who’s West’s “appropriate adult” — a person who, in Britain’s legal system, is brought in to act as a kind of witness for suspects who are either underage, or as in the case of West, might be considered not totally capable of understanding the legal process.

It’s an odd angle on an even odder case, one that’s gradually revealed to be more and more horrific. (But then my experience probably differed from that of viewers already familiar with the more salacious details.) The only thing that makes watching this story unfold even slightly bearable are West and Watson’s performances.

If you make it through that, though, “Bag of Bones” should let you sleep in relative peace, if only because, like most of King’s work, it’s at least faithful to its own internal logic.

OK, so I did wonder why Brosnan’s Mike Noonan has an Irish accent and his brother doesn’t.

Or why a childless couple would happen to have alphabet magnets on their refrigerator.

But compared with (sigh) “American Horror Story,” the tale itself makes a certain amount of sense and like any good thrill ride, spaces out the scary parts just enough to make them truly scary.

10 p.m. EST Saturday, Sundance Channel
9 p.m. EST Sunday and Monday, A&E

©2011 the Philadelphia Daily News

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