contains spoilers for the fifth season of Luther.
Lutheran differs from the profusion of UK prime-time detective dramas in a number of ways, but two, in particular, stand out: shock value and its willingness to accept true terror.
While Luther’s series arcs—his encounters with other law enforcement agencies, his acrimonious conflict with gangster George Cornelius (Patrick Malahide), and his twisted relationship with nemesis Alice (Ruth Wilson), to name a few—offer a deep look into the personality and psyche of Idris Elba’s antiheroic cop, it’s the killer-of-the-week plots that really up the spook
Watch series two. For instance, take Cameron Pell (Lee Ingleby), a cruel art student turned serial killer who terrorizes London’s streets with his trusty machete in the style of the well-known Victorian bogeyman Spring-Heeled Jack.
is the third-season villain Kevin Fuller played the fetishistic house intruder Paul Ellis, who prevented millions of viewers from getting a decent night’s rest with his disturbing under-the-bed antics. Both of them would have fit right in with even the darkest Hollywood spine-chilling.
The advent of the deranged Jeremy Lake (Enzo Cilenti) and a sequence that would frighten even the most ardent horror fans, however, marked Series 5 as the season that completely leaned into the slasher-movie genre.
Lake, a renowned cardiac surgeon with a haughty superiority attitude who doubles as a masochistic serial killer, is John Luther’s most evil foe to date. His psychologist wife Vivian (Hermione Norris), a domineering force who indulges his nasty passion and covers up his crimes, keeps an eye on him as he struggles to control his deadly inclinations while stalking, kidnapping, and killing his victims.
In the opening scene of the fifth series, we witness Lake claiming a victim aboard a double-decker red bus, a symbol of London. Although the sequence is short, it really demonstrates how Luther makes the most of its genre conventions by being extremely gruesome and terrifying.
A woman boards the No. 15 bus while waiting in the dark near the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, East London. She settles into a seat on the top deck, where she is joined by the usual motley crew of drunken partygoers and late-night commuters. As her journey is described in nearly banal detail, there is a spooky calm and a sparse soundtrack of motor noises, door mechanisms, and background chatter. Her initial anxiety fades as fatigue and familiarity take hold. Her companion travelers disembark at each point until she is traveling alone, or so she believes.
At the back of the vehicle, a face appears suddenly and quietly. No one is present despite the woman’s search. In a terrifyingly suspenseful minute of television, the killer—later identified as Lake—carefully creeps down the aisle toward her while wearing a grotesque doll-like mask made creepier by an LED-lit sweatshirt.
He then gently stands up to make his identity known. The point of view then shifts to another woman who is traveling alone in the opposite direction on a bus as the attacker stabs her in the throat.
There isn’t a jump scare in this film; instead, the intolerable tension draws its horror from a terrible deed that occurs in a typical, everyday environment, much like in all good scary movies.
The three-minute clip frightened viewers, and several of them posted on social media that they were done riding night buses. It even made an appearance on that week’s episode of Gogglebox, a sign of how deeply it has permeated the public psyche.
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Why? Well, the majority of us have taken a bus at some point in our lives, and even during the day, it can be a spooky experience. Neil Cross, the creator, and writer of Luther have in fact previously discussed how his own fear is at the basis of the villains of the show.
People frequently express astonishment that I am psychologically healthy and well-adjusted, but that is because I never write about what I want to do to other people; instead, I always write about what I am afraid other people will do to me, he said in an interview with Variety.
Elba states of the show’s setting: “The reason a city [like London] works is that there are tonnes of shadows [It has] that sort of Gotham-esque vibe.” it is frequently claimed that one of Luther’s key characters is London itself. And while they watched this drama unfold, anyone who has lived in or visited London especially had reasons to be afraid.
The program goes to great measures to include aspects of the nation’s capital that aren’t typically seen on screen and to frame the action away from the recognizable, million-plus-times-filmed sites. As series five director Jamie Payne puts it, the moment you walk into a picture postcard you become alienated because you can smell the contrivance.
London’s night buses offer a vital service by transporting people during the early hours of the morning and to locations that the tube cannot, but they are not glamorous. Anyone who has been on one will attest that there will be occasions when you’ll want to keep your wits about you, and Cross here really plays on that sensation.
According to Payne, who explains why Luther’s horror components so effectively connect with viewers, “[the show] enjoys celebrating the genre of it, but if you detach it from the truth, then it doesn’t work as well. Because it is something we can relate to, Neil’s work is exceptional because it taps into our fundamental dread. Neil exhorts us to transform commonplace scenes into spectacular ones.
The night bus murder packs a wallop for such a brief and understated scene, and it quickly rose to the top of both the fifth series and the entire program.
It’s a tribute to the tension-filled cinematic atmosphere that Payne created, which he’ll try to replicate in the upcoming Luthermovie, for which he’s taking the helm once more. We might be in for even more terrible on-screen nightmares now that Andy Serkis is playing the villain.
Currently, Luther may be seen online through BBC iPlayer.
The following article was initially featured on Den of Geek: Luther’s Scariest Scene: the London Bus Moment Fans Will Never Forget.