David Peace’s English answer to James Ellroy’s “LA Quartet” (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential, and White Jazz), the “Red Riding Quartet” (1974, 1977, 1980, and 1983) has been adapted by screenwriter Tony Grisoni into a fantastic trilogy for UK Channel 4 and is now available on DVD (and netflix on demand) in the US. To say that you should get your hands on this shit toot-fucking-sweet is putting it feather-weight fucking lightly. This is complex, nasty, thrilling crime shit that will get the blood flowing to the filthy, withered extremities of any good basement crazy.
The Nerd is sad to say that the producers of the trilogy did not film 1977, the second book in the series, for budgetary reasons (and that one had the undeniably awesome Jack “Fucking” Whitehead as its protagonist) but the faults pretty much end there for the Red Riding Trilogy. The arc of the series concerns itself with the police and journalistic investigations into two different rashes of serial murder in Yorkshire, a town in northern England, the first being a series of child murders and the second the infamous murders of young women attributed to the Yorkshire Ripper. Like Ellroy’s novels, Peace mixes real events with lurid conspiracy, the real heart of the story not being so much about serial killer shit so much as the horrifying corruption at play in the police department and beyond in Yorkshire.
1974, the story of a reporter investigating the murders of local girls found with swan wings stitched to their backs making them appear like perverse dead angels, is directed by Julian Jarrold (coming off the dry, Masterpiece Theatre-ly films Brideshead Revisited and Becoming Jane) and is inarguably the toughest film of the bunch, the accents thicker and story harder to follow than the rest of the films. Though it may offer some challenge up front, stick with the film, as it leads to a brutal and harrowing climax where few are spared and those who were most likely wish they weren’t.
1980 is the most out of step with the larger arc of the trilogy (though it wouldn’t be *ahem* if they had bothered to film 1977) as it deals primarily with the Yorkshire Ripper murders and an out-of-towner detective’s inquiries into the case. It is directed by Nerd favorite James Marsh of Man On Wire and the dangerously over-looked The King fame and is easily my favorite of the extremely solid three. Like all good second acts, it’s the darkest and grimmest of the three, and in this trilogy that is fucking saying something.
Director Anand Tucker (whose previous film was…Leap Year?) wraps up the whole affair with the thrilling 1983, the most ambitious in scope of all the films. Though the climax has a small bit of business in it that’s a bit too thriller-ish for the Nerd’s taste (my basement crazy purists will notice it as well and roll their eyes accordingly), but otherwise the fucker’s slam-fucking-bang shit, bringing it all back around and giving the viewer just the right (though miniscule) amount of (earned) uplift that such an evil, ten-hot-showers-in-a-row-and-still-not-clean journey deserves.
So fire this shit up and bask in the smutty, smart, disgusting filth that is this trilogy. After you’ve viewed the films you may feel the need to trepanate yourself to “relieve the horror” from your mind. That said, in those fleeting moments before the spike goes through your skull, you’ll still, deep down in the recesses of your diseased brain, be glad the Nerd hipped you to this shit.