If you tarried a few days in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, a hundred years ago, it would have seemed a forward-looking community, bustling with the enterprise of Scandinavian and German immigrants. Get stuck there over a long cold winter, though, and you might begin to sense the creeping madness of the place, the disease, hunger and suffering. That is, if you survived that long. James Marsh's documentary, made for the BBC's 'Arena' series, is stylish and mordantly witty. It's derived from a book, edited by Michael Lesy, which trawled through an archive of local newspaper stories and photographic portraits (many of the recently deceased). Even by the standards of British tabloids, and dispassionately voiced by Ian Holm, these dispatches from the Badger State Banner consist of truly toe-curling tales of murder, mania and mortal illness - with the exploits of notorious window-smasher Mary Sweeney a running sore. The material is cleverly arranged. The stark, staring portraiture of the time is augmented with crisp dramatic vignettes, shot in sepia and b/w to resemble the earliest days of cinema. What emerges is primal American Gothic: a blighted pathos which is also irrepressibly, grotesquely funny.