Sunday, October 8, 2017

Pilot Review: Rillington Place

Rillington Place (Sundance Now)
Premiered October 5

Serial killer dramas are usually dark and miserable, and that’s compounded exponentially when they’re period British serial killer dramas. The opening hour of this three-past series originally broadcast on BBC One towards the end of last year is certainly bleak, and it’s the definition of an uninviting experience. Tim Roth, currently starring on another British import, “Tin Star,” that debuted just last week on Amazon, is a great choice for this extremely creepy role, that of the infamous John Christie, known from strangling eight people in the flat located at the address that serves as this episode’s title. I’m a huge fan of Samantha Morton, who I think should have been nominated for an Oscar for her role as a future-predicting precog in “Minority Report” and who rightly won a Golden Globe for her turn in another story of a British murderer, “Longford.” She’s excellent here, as always, but what a miserable role it is. This program in general is far from appealing, and the extreme seriousness of its content doesn’t make that worthwhile. Its two protagonists speak quietly both when they’re getting along, which is rare, and when they’re fighting, and this episode ended with the haunting image of John’s eye watching his new neighbors through the peephole he has created in the wall. Unfortunately, we know nothing good is in store for those who dwell in his building, and so continuing to watch just reveals more of how they met their demise. I usually find productions like this to be involving, but this one was just too dreary and off-putting to keep me invested.

How will it work as a series? This show is just three episodes, and apparently each of them is told from the perspective of a different character, first Ethel, then Tim Evans, then John himself. It’s an intriguing setup, but I can’t imagine the tone of those episodes is going to be any more inviting.
How long will it last? This isn’t a show that was meant to go on any longer, and Sundance Now has all three episodes available online already. This is just a way of getting a story much better known in the UK to be seen by American audiences.

Pilot grade: C+

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