Words: Andrea Zanin
Illustration: Fleur Beech

Horror is horror. But it’s also relative. There’s the usual blood-guts-and-gore hyperbole that exudes metaphor and rouses adrenaline by hyping the mind into frenzied overdrive as it reluctantly contemplates the ‘what ifs?’ of brain-munching zombies, teen-slashing psychos, slime-spewing aliens, apocalyptic machine warfare and serial killers – some who eat their victims, others who wear them. And then there’s a horror that’s more mundane; the kind that governs everyday life – root canal, slugs, spiders, public speaking, sharks, thunder, cycling in London… the kind of stuff that has the power to evoke a visceral reaction in even the most rational of person. Jack Thorne, screenwriter, playwright and Bafta winner (the man responsible for popular series including Skins, The Cast-Offs, This Is England ’86 and ’88, The Fades), is an artist who understands that horror, embellishments and all, is rooted in reality; that blood spatter and stormy weather are not the only arrows signposting the way to Disturbia.

Forget demon doll Chucky, horror child of the 80s; there’s a new beast on the block and its name is Glue. Thorne’s latest TV offering has been aptly and yet deceptively marketed as a ‘teen drama’ but be warned! It moonlights, with deviant success, as a ‘parent’s worst nightmare’. Set in the quiet lanes and expansive fields of rural Berkshire, a fictional town called Overton, Glue totally obliterates the pastoral pleasure typically synonymous with the utopian idealism of country living. The show invites teen-viewers to look on with empathy, revelling in the catharsis offered by Tina, Rob and Overton’s gang of miscreant youth who live out the trauma of eighteen-and-counting in the context of a messy effort to figure out who killed Cal – friend to some, foe to others. But a casual midsummer murder mystery this show is not.

The antics of Thorne’s angst-driven teen posse whittle away at and brutally eradicate the fictive innocence of childhood

While teens watch on with knowing grins their parental units are engaged in a white-knuckle ride that is sure to wear away at the family furniture. The antics of Thorne’s angst-driven teen posse whittle away at and brutally eradicate the fictive innocence of childhood with some seriously hardcore anarchism: taking drugs, selling drugs, stealing cars, cavorting naked in fields, bath-tubs and stables (anywhere and everywhere), playing weird ‘near death’ games like diving into silos filled with wheat grain and getting pulled out on the point of suffocation or lying submerged in bathwater with plastic bags wrapped around heads, most of which transposes onto screen in episode one.

Teendom, in spite of any parent’s best efforts, is an unavoidable rite of passage and also a rude reminder of Life’s great potential to warp character and cajole bad choices. Wordsworth was on to something when he said “the world is too much with us”; there is just no way of stopping its pillage and plunder. What parents want to know is that their children will be OK; that they will survive the peril and come out intact. Glue accentuates these fears by placing a big fat question mark over the ‘intact’ and ‘okay’ bits.

The recoil factor is huge for parents imagining their own adult-ish children copulating in barns, chugging acid, going pyromaniac on police evidence and offering sex for money in ramshackle pubs – the usual binging, bullying and bigotry that makes up teen existence. Apparently. But there is perhaps one consolation; exaggeration for emphasis. Sensationalism is a by-product of not only horror but TV in general, which begs the question; how far has Thorne pushed the pulp? Should mums and dads be wrapping their children in bubble-wrap and hiding them in cupboards until the hormones are dulled and anarchy is remembered as something punks did in the 70s?

The neuroses experienced by the denizens of this eight-part series is the manifestation of a small town culture that is deeply complex

It’s easy to spin into a figurative coronary much like the kind induced by the show’s namesake drug, which is likely to induce dizziness, loss of coordination, muscular movement, slurring of speech, mental deterioration, hallucinations and finally drowsiness which can lead on to coma and respiratory failure. At least three of those symptoms are guaranteed to inflict parents partaking in an evening of Glue. In spite of which, forget the bubble wrap (it’s impractical anyway!; as the show progresses it becomes clear that the neuroses experienced by the denizens of Glue’s eight-part series are not merely a ‘kids gone wild’ scenario (praise Holy Moses) but the manifestation of a small town culture that is deeply complex.

As different world views collide they also implode, which is tough to deal with when you’re an adolescent teen-ing your way through all the tension. As it turns out, the show’s greatest triumph is also its most poignant point: people are, by and large, ambiguous. The murderer is also the victim, the victim is also the criminal, the oppressed is also the oppressor and the marginalised is also the persecutor. And this is a great life lesson. Naturally, parents would prefer that their children figure it all out from the safe confines of a loving home but the truth of the matter is that this is a luxury not afforded to every man, and perhaps a friendly (even not-so friendly) reminder isn’t bad. The thing with horror, even the subjective kind, is that it’s difficult to ignore – most likely, you’ll find yourself transfixed with entertainment a convenient repercussion. Glue has that effect, too.

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