Greetings traveller. Remember how forty years ago in 2018 I cursed you all with the knowledge of Rimini Riddle, either a vanishingly obscure Irish children’s programme from the nineties or (as seemed more likely) a collective national nightmare akin to the time we all convinced ourselves that Twink was a real person?
Well, there have recently been developments. Significant developments.
Commenter Kev recently left a Kev comment as commenter Kevs are wont to do:
That was the beginning. I waited, caught in a mad no-man’s-land between dread and anticipation. And then, hark!
I told myself that it couldn’t be possible. the Riddle…survived? No. And it couldn’t be. Surely not. And then…
Yes. It’s true. Kev, that modern Prometheus, that monomaniac, that…guy, has, like a Carl Denham of the modern age, tracked the monster to its attic lair and dragged it in chains out into the harsh light of day to be gawped at for our amusement.
WE HAVE A (partial) EPISODE OF RIMINI RIDDLE. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
AND I AM GOING TO REVIEW IT MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON US ALL!
Alright, because I’m damned if I’m shouldering this curse alone, I’ll embed the video at the end of the post:
Just be sure not to answer any calls from Japanese phone numbers.
So the setup is as follows.
Orphans Rory, Ellen and Leo live with their miserly Aunt Vera in her seaside guesthouse. As this episode begins, Vera is going away and the three kids are supposed to be staying with Ellen’s best friend, Una. But, Rory, as the eldest, has decided that he’s going to just stay in the guesthouse alone.
Well, I say alone. He will be sharing the house with Otto, the devil’s mustelid. You remember Otto surely?
Extra-dimensional demon inhabiting the form of Leo’s toy otter with the ultimate goal of feeding him to his masters, the child-eating abominations known as the Mommos? You remember. That Otto.
Una, who is 100% that bitch, suggests to Ellen and Leo that they sneak into the house in the middle of the night wearing masks to properly traumatise him for daring to think he could have a quiet night to himself without having to put up with everyone’s psychotic bullshit.
The kids say goodbye to Rory and then Una steals the key to the backdoor so that Rory will be properly defenceless and they leave him to it. Now at this point, I was thinking “this isn’t as weird and off-putting as I remember it”. Then we got the scene of Rory dancing alone while chanting “THE FORESTS OF THE EARTH WILL DIE” all the while being watched by a possessed sock puppet and then I was like “well never fucking mind”.
The song sounds like it was written by someone who had never actually listened to Heavy Metal but had it described to them once. By a drunk. Through a door. In a language they were only somewhat fluent in.
David Lynch wishes he could come up with something this deranged.
Anyway, after Otto decides to fuck with Rory’s walkman with demon otter powers, Rory cooks himself some food and gets ready to go to bed. But, because Una took the key with her, he can’t lock the back door so he pushes the kitchen table against it so he’ll at least hear it if large men break into the house with designs on his valuables/nubile teenage body.
So watching this again, seventy times, on loop, in a darkened basement, huddled naked before the flickering screen, muttering words under my breath in a language I do not speak I finally realised just why this show creeped out my entire generation so much. It wasn’t the horror elements, or the seriously ugly puppets or the honestly-not-that-great puppeteering (and I speak with authority as an honestly-not-that-great-puppeteer). It’s the delivery. Every character in this speaks with that super deliberate slow delivery you see in children’s shows the world over. But instead of saying things like “Oh LOOK. A RED ball. I’ll show this to the COW because RED is her favourite colour” they’re saying things like “Oh LOOK. The KEY has been STOLEN. I should barricade myself in with the TABLE so I don’t get MURDERED in my sleep by a MANIAC who then wears my SKIN as a HAT.” And that juxtaposition is really fucking creepy, actually.
So Rory hears noises downstairs and goes down to investigate. There he finds one of his Aunt’s neighbours in the kitchen eating sausages. This is Fergie who is, and let’s be generous and not jump to any conclusions here, absolutely 100% a paedophile.
Rory demands to know what Fergie is doing in his house in the dead of night and Fergie says that Vera has given him the key so that he can come and go as he pleases. And I’m pretty sure this is not what Vera had in mind. Fergie says they can wait until Vera arrives to confirm his story and Rory admits that she’s not at home and that he’s here alone (DANGER DANGER WILL ROBINSON). Fergie susses that Rory is hear without Vera’s knowledge, and Rory tells him that he’s only doing it because Una and Ellen said that he’d be too afraid to stay on his own. Fergie nods and says “Ah women, they are the source of all our troubles, Rory.”
Rory bribes Fergie into keeping his secret by offering him more sausage NO SUBTEXT THERE THEN and goes back to bed.
He wakes up in the middle of the night when he hears the kitchen table being knocked over. Grabbing a rolling pin as a weapon, and terrified out of his mind, he creeps downstairs. He overhears Ellen, Una and Leo talking about how they’re going to traumatise him like this show did to the entire Irish millennial cohort. He waits until they put on their masks so they can’t see and then ambushes them, pretending to be a burglar himself. Terrified, Una begs him not to shoot them as they’re only children and Rory snarls “I LIKE shooting children.”
I seem to recall that this caused a great deal of controversy at the time with people worried that including a line like that in a children’s programme could inspire school shootings. Then we remembered that, thanks our common-sense gun laws, that was literally impossible and then we forgot all about it.
Ellen says that their brother is upstairs and has already called the police and Rory pretends that he has murdered himself (THIS IS A CHILDREN’S SHOW A SHOW FOR CHILDREN).
Rory reveals himself and Una is furious at him for scaring them like that (Una is the worst, I remember that now). Rory mocks them, saying that he didn’t realise they were “only children” and Una splutters “Rory Fagan…you’re a BEAST!” like the fustiest dowager in the manor or something.
Rory goes back to bed, saying to himself “that should shut Una Brophy up for a while, she was fit to burst with temper!” and man I forgot how we all use to talk like we were in a JM Synge play back in the nineties.
He is woken up again when he hears more noises down in the kitchen. Furious, thinking that Ellen, Una and Leo have come back, he runs down waving the rolling pin and confronts TRUE HORROR
Yup, Aunt Vera’s home early, and wants to know why the house looks like it’s been burgled and all the food’s been eaten and what exactly Rory is doing here. And scene.
Well, I think I can safely say that was the weirdest and most disturbing thing I’ve seen in 2020.
This was not close to how dark the show could get but it is a delightful, rare little taste of what was honestly one of the most unique television shows ever produced in Ireland. Unique is not always “good” and there’s definitely some technical shortcomings. But there’s also some real talent on display. I forgot how damn effective the music was, for a start. And it’s actually very well paced. All the elements good and bad, come together to create something utterly unique, thoroughly bizarre, absolutely compelling deeply, deeply creepy.
Huge thanks to Kev Geraghty for uploading the episode and agreeing to let me review it.
My book, When the Sparrow falls, is now available for preorder! Links here.