Everyone’s favorite gruesome murder mystery series is back on Shudder with the 5th seasons of the cult favorite Slasher! Aptly titled “Ripper” this latest installment of the anthology series takes us back in time to the late 19th/early 20th Century in Toronto. Inspired heavily by Jack the Ripper and Victorian London, the series is off to a strong start, even if not everything quite holds up just yet…
Opening on the streets of what you might assume are Victorian London, the character’s North American accents give away that we are across the pond in Toronto. Following the brutal murder of an upper class “gentleman” (who was also a serial abuser of sex workers), the whole town is in a frenzy. Including his widow who refuses to believe what had done, a police detective not being taken seriously, a newspaper editor threatened for wanting to expose the truth, a trio of sisters with some intense rivalry, and several others.
These first two episodes do a great job of introducing its ensemble cast of characters, each with their own stakes, agendas, and potential motivations for being the “Widow Killer” as the press has dubbed them. According to a note left in the first victim’s body, all of this ties back to a murder that occurred 12 years ago that likely sent the wrong person to the gallows.
All the while, the chief of police seems to know more than he lets on, and the women on skid row are taking a stand against the organized crime boss who wields power over them. With the Widow striking three times over these two episodes, we can assume that means a new murder every episode and a new suspect crossed off the list!
As far as Murder Mysteries go, Slasher: Ripper is off to a pretty strong start. It jumps between several characters, both introducing us to who they are and their role to play in all this. Thus far, the most interesting are definitely the police detective determined to get to the bottom of the case and a magician/clairvoyant who’s much more talented than his stage act would suggest.
The former is ridiculed by his superiors for wanting to use forensics (which was still in its infancy at the time) to solve the murders, and the latter getting more than he bargained for in a seance. The introduction of possession definitely made for one of the episode’s creepiest and most memorable scenes. But at this point it’s too early to tell whether the inclusion of supernatural elements will mesh with or clash with the gritty slasher nature.
And while it is definitely done in the style of a murder mystery, it definitely lives up to its title with how gruesomely creative and bloody these kills are. We get our share of gory stabbings and slashings, but the real highlight is a character being killed by a printing press that literally crushes their limbs spraying blood everywhere. This series may not have the biggest budget, but it absolutely knows what disturbed horror fans want and delivers on it!
All that said, the series is still unfortunately limited by its budget. To be fair, it’s always difficult to do period pieces on a limited budget. This is why indie projects set far in the past will often be set in rural or limited locations.
Slasher: Ripper is an ensemble series about the citizens of a city, and it’s hard to show off where every street looks the same. Granted, it’s unfair to criticize a movie or show for its budget, but it is a practical limitation that’s more noticeable when you’re doing a period piece set in a large city.
It’s also not really big on historical accuracy, and in strange ways. Half the characters speak like you’d expect characters in the 1890’s to sound with a slightly elevated vocabulary, not really using slang. And the other half speak like modern day, using phrases and expressions that definitely weren’t around back then.
Either creative choice is fine, it’s just weird that they’re not consistent. One character even uses the term “sex worker”, and while that’s the term used today, it wasn’t coined until the 1970’s and definitely wouldn’t have been used over a century ago. It also completely ignores Canada’s history of racial segregation.
Likely, this was done in the interest of diverse casting, and that’s not a bad thing at all. But to not reference the unfortunate history runs the risk of forgetting it happened, or inadvertently perpetuating a narrative that Canada didn’t have the same segregation as the U.S. While they were different in their approaches, it still happened.
Overall, Slasher: Ripper is off to a great start. Sure it has its flaws, but it’s overall goal isn’t historical accuracy, it’s to portray a violent, gory murder mystery, and in that regard, it’s very successful!
What do you think of the first two episodes of Slasher: Ripper? What do you hope to see next week? Let us know in the comments!
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