19 January 2003 | ProfessorX
Brilliant, a superior thriller
Last year, the first MESSIAH was shown on BBC 1. Adapted from the excellent novel by Boris Starling, it was a chilling, London-set tale of murder, religion, and gallons of blood. This year round, we get the sequel - VENGEANCE IS MINE. After a teasing set of trailers, shown after nearly every single programme after seven o'clock, turned me into an excitable bundle of anticipation, and after six months of waiting (it was postponed from August 2002, after the events in Soham), we get the best damn British thriller in years. Ken Stott returns as grumpy DSI Red Metcalfe, a man haunted by his own dark past, and trying to track down the killer of his brother Eric. The plot really starts moving when a man is found bound and buried alive on Wimbledon Common, in the same fashion as another man several years ago. Are we talking about a copycat killer? Is this revenge? As the bodycount rises, so does the tension, as Red and his team (including Neil Dudgeon and Frances Grey) race against time to find the next target before the killer does. In the first MESSIAH, the serial killer was bumping off the 12 disciples in the particulary gruesome ways that are depicted in the Bible; but this time, it is more a outright guessing game, a true murder mystery. Some of the deaths are extremely inventive and horrible (although not quite as grisly as last time, when we had flaying alive, beheading, and sawing in half). Stott, Dudgeon, Grey are terrific, and are well supported by Art Malik, Emily Joyce and Vincent Regan. The direction is such a high-point in this, because it is sutiably moody, castign huge shadows and cold blues against the London back-drop, and the waves of blood. At times the direction can be quite distant, but it is always tight, always focused, and never strays from the downright thrilling. This was shown in two parts, over a Saturday and Sunday, and I can tell you that the 24 hours between Part 1 and Part 2 was agonising, absolutely agonising. The first MESSIAH was unfairly compared to SE7EN (mainly because of it's religious content), but I actually think both the first one and this MESSIAH are miles better. Perhaps this is because I know London very well and I can relate to that, but I think that the acting, the direction, and the script are all so much better. Plus, this is a more traditional mystery: at least we actually get a chance of guessing who the killer is, instead of having to wait for some nobody to turn up, like in SE7EN. The mark of a good horror story is that it should stay with you. And this. As you lie in the dark, pushing yourself deeper into the matress, close your eyes. . .and you'll see men being buried alive, hearts cut out. . .rivers of blood. . . Essentially, this is a fairy-tale for adults; we all like to be terrified in the safety our armchairs, but it's a bloody good one. I hope they do a MESSIAH 3, because this truly was the highlight of the year (and it's only January). Lizzie Mickery's script is so brilliant, the characters and the plot so deep, and the deaths so imaginitive. This is fantastic.