What would Detective William Murdoch say? And would he be able to solve the crime? Those were the first two thoughts when I watched screeners of the first two episodes of Slasher: Ripper.
Returning Thursday at 9 p.m. ET to Hollywood Suite, Slasher: Ripper is the latest instalment of the gruesome, gory whodunit from creator-executive producer Aaron Martin and fellow executive producer Ian Carpenter.
Set in the late 19th century, and partly filmed on the backlot where fellow Shaftesbury project Murdoch Mysteries is created, Ripper catches up with a Toronto galvanized by fear. There is a vengeful killer on the loose slaughtering the city’s elite in horribly creative ways. Charged with solving the case is Detective Kenneth Rijkers (Gabriel Darku), who becomes increasingly desperate to connect the deaths before the body count gets any higher.
Toplining this tale is Eric McCormack, who dons 19th-century garb to play Basil Garvey, a supremely nasty tycoon who holds Toronto in his greedy grip. Easily the evilest character McCormack has ever played, Martin and Carpenter were positively giddy with his performance.
“Not unlike last year, when we brought David Cronenberg in [for Slasher: Flesh & Blood], we were looking for that type of person for that and [executive producer] Christina Jennings said, ‘I wonder if we can get him?’ He told me that as soon as he read one of his first lines of dialogue he said, ‘I have to do this part.'”
Complementing McCormack is Martin and Carpenter’s stable of Slasher performers in Paula Brancati as heiress Viviana Botticelli, Jefferson Brown as pimp Horatio Dixon, Lisa Berry as physician Dr. Melanda Israel, Jo Vannicola as newspaper editor Enid Jenkins, Steve Byers as man of God, Andrew May Jr., Sabrina Grdevich as Viviana’s sister, Venetia, Christopher Jacot as brothel owner Terrence Crenshaw and Salvatore Antonio as sex worker Salomé. And while all are familiar faces to the franchise, Martin and Carpenter ensure their characters are always unique.
“We like to give them a chance to play outside of the roles they are usually cast in,” Martin says. The result is performances that are mesmerizing and truly memorable. That goes for the acting chops provided by new faces alongside McCormack. Murdoch Msyteries‘ Clare McConnell goes against type as Regina Simcoe, Frankie Drake Mysteries‘ Sharron Matthews as housekeeper Gladys and Killjoys‘ Thom Allison as Georges Rondeau.
Written by Martin, Carpenter, Shelley Scarrow and Lucie Pagé, the eight-episode scripts are taut, enthralling, exciting and deliciously over-the-top. And, thanks to director of photography Scott McClellan and director-executive producer Adam McDonald, the setting is disturbing and very un-Murdoch.
“That backlot is beautiful,” Carpenter says. “We set some visual goals, and Scott and Adam shot the hell out of it. We wanted to get the dirt, the animals, the feces, the blood … it was really exciting.”
Slasher: Ripper airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on Hollywood Suite.
Images courtesy of Shaftesbury.