Wreck on BBC Three review: Hollyoaks on a horror cruise ship

Jack Rowan, left, and Oscar Kennedy in BBC Three’s Wreck  (BBC/Euston Films)
Jack Rowan, left, and Oscar Kennedy in BBC Three’s Wreck (BBC/Euston Films)

As Halloween approaches, viewers are being treated to a barrage of new horror and slasher films. BBC Three’s contribution is Wreck, set aboard a cruise ship, but does it stay afloat?

Jamie (Oscar Kennedy), a new recruit to the crew of The Sacramentum, is there undercover to find out what happened to his sister who died while on the same vessel some years earlier. All the reports say that she died by suicide, but he doesn’t believe it.

But while he’s investigating, staff members start being bumped off. The young employees are partying, the managerial staff don’t seem to care, and all the while a killer, dressed as a giant fluffy duck mascot, is on the loose.

It’s set up to be brilliant fun, and the wacky premise has tonnes of potential, but ultimately Wreck lives up to its name – it’s confusing and somehow a little bit boring too.

The six-episode show could be best described as a Hollyoaks on a horror cruise ship. The story becomes more convoluted with each episode, taking viewers from one daft plot to another like a marble in a pinball machine.

A slasher duck? Absolutely. A drug dealing network? Sure. Potential incest? Why not. But the surprises don’t stop there: there’s also the Filipino mafia, disturbed rich people, employee mutiny, several unbelievable love stories, and a body count reminiscent of an episode of Midsomer Murders.

Thaddea Graham and Oscar Kennedy in Wreck (BBC/Euston Films)
Thaddea Graham and Oscar Kennedy in Wreck (BBC/Euston Films)

There are clear influences of films The Firm and Hot Fuzz and Netflix’s series Squid Game mixed in there too, with sinister bosses, jump scares amounting to nothing, and the mundane being used as a comic tool, balancing out all the murder.

Unfortunately, the root of the problem for Wreck is that the ideas don’t fit together seamlessly. It all just seems a bit scattered, with each strand struggling to fully develop, whether that’s the central thriller plot or deeper relationships between characters.

The other problem is that although it’s billed as a comedy thriller, the show provides few real laughs, and even then they’re fleeting. The humour is often crude and details are just as coarse, with condoms floating in pools and several embarrassing scenes of awkward humping that goes on between unlikable characters.

It’s clearly all purposefully crass, but the pantomime humour coupled with the teenage-level conversations, the fact that the baddies are bad, the goodies are good, and that all complexity has been left back at port, makes for a disappointing watch.

Jodie Tyack as Pippa, Jamie’s sister (BBC/Euston Films)
Jodie Tyack as Pippa, Jamie’s sister (BBC/Euston Films)

It’s a shame: writer Ryan J Brown won a new writing BAFTA prize in 2016 for LGBTQ+ crime drama We Are Your Children and he had work listed on the Brit List (a round-up of the best undeveloped screenplays as voted on by the industry) in both 2018 and 2019.

In Wreck, too, he has put non-heterosexual relationships front and centre of the drama (both Jamie and his on-screen friend Vivian, played by Thaddea Graham, pursue same-sex love interests) but any profundity that could develop between the couples is lost in flat dialogues.

The redeeming factor in it all is Jamie’s friendship with Vivian which seems sweet and genuine. But by and large Wreck, with all its baffling twists and turns, might be worth giving a wide berth.

Wreck starts on Sunday, October 9 on BBC3